According to a detailed report from The Information, Meta plans to release no less than four new virtual reality headsets between now and the end of 2024, as the Facebook parent company aggressively pursues founder Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for the metaverse.
The internal roadmap seen by The Information says the first of these headsets is due to be released around September this year. It’s codenamed Project Cambria and is a high-end VR and mixed-reality stand-alone device that will be sold as a tool for remote work, rather than for gaming. In an earnings call last week, Zuckerberg said that the focus for Cambria was “eventually replacing your laptop or work setup.”
Key to this is very high-resolution image quality that will make it easy to read (and write) text inside the headset. Cambria also uses outward-facing cameras to pass through a view of the user’s real-life surroundings, mixed reality, as opposed to full virtual reality, experiences. These features, coupled with its relatively low onboard processing power, differentiate Cambria sharply from other high-end headsets like Vive Pro, which are designed primarily for gaming and require a powerful PC to operate. Insiders at Meta’s Reality Labs call the device “a laptop for the face.” Cambria will reportedly be priced at $799 or higher.
Next after Cambria, in 2023, will be a new version of Meta’s low-end Quest headset, which currently starts at $299. Then, in 2024, both Cambria and Quest will be refreshed with further new versions. At least, that’s Meta’s plan. According to The Information’s report, the social networking company is struggling to adapt to life as a maker of hardware and operating systems, which along with supply constraints has caused frequent delays to its planned push into VR — as well as to the augmented reality glasses it is developing in parallel.
Many other challenges face Zuckerberg’s quest to have us all joining work meetings through VR goggles in Meta’s Horizon Workrooms app. One is compatibility for Meta’s custom VR operating system with common workplace software. Another is the so-far unproven public appetite for VR, or for Zuckerberg’s vision of the metaverse as an immersive, pervasive VR internet where people will work, socialize and shop using avatars. But the Meta CEO is taking a long view. During the recent earnings call, he said Meta was “laying the groundwork for what I expect to be a very exciting 2030.”