IN Oculus Quest 2 (now called Meta mission 2) has become a surprisingly successful virtual reality headset and remains ours favorite VR device although he is almost two years old. What will Meta, the former Facebook, do for his encore? The company is expected to release four new handsets in the next few years, according to a recent report from The information. A handset announced last year called “The Cumbria Project“is on deck for 2022, but don’t expect it to be a real sequel to Quest 2.

Instead, Project Cambria looks a far more expensive and sophisticated type of hybrid headset for AR / VR, a bridge device that could be an amazing VR device, but can also allow mixed reality, combining real world video with VR through enhanced cameras.

Cambria will also add new sensor technology (in particular, eye tracking), which can introduce new possibilities for VR interaction and animation of your avatar. But this eye tracking also raises questions about the confidentiality of the data.

Standalone, like Quest 2

Yes, the Cambria looks like a standalone device like Quest 2. But just like Quest 2, expect it to optionally connect to computers and to some extent to phones. Early reported design layouts show a design that looks smaller than Quest 2, but according to recent reports from The Information, a larger battery could mean more weight. Meta has already confirmed that the headphones will be more compact where the lenses meet the face, using “pancake lenses” that can compress the distance needed to create compelling 3D effects.

The larger battery looks like it can sit on the back of the headphones, creating a design that looks more like Microsoft Hololence 2, augmented reality headphones than Meta’s existing Oculus VR goggles. VR devices like HTC Vive Focus 3 (and Meta ‘s own battery belt accessory for Quest 2) place batteries on the back of the headphones as well.

While recent reports such as The Information call the Cambria a “laptop for your face”, which implies more stand-alone power, expect the headset to connect to computers for more powerful applications, such as Quest 2 at the moment.

More sensors

Mark Zuckerberg, in a conversation with CNET last year he told me that the professional version of Quest would focus on more sensor technology. Eye and face tracking is already known, but it is possible that Cambria will allow more tracking of health and fitness. Fitness is the main focus for Meta’s VR platforms and the company has already acquired a subscription fitness a service that measures heart rate via a paired Apple Watch. (IN Oculus Move the app is syncing with Apple Health.) Meta is also reported to be working on it own smart watch.

How will you mix reality?

Project Cambria’s enhanced external cameras will capture transient color video, showing it on the internal headphone display. Quest 2 can “see” and show the outside world too, but in a grainy black and white video show. Quest 2 overlays a bit of VR with this feed as room boundaries, creating a kind of mixed reality. Expect Meta Cambria to make this far more realistic.

I am already tried an example of this technology is a very high class VR headset made by a Finnish company called Varjo. The Varjo XR-3 uses lidar and cameras to scan the real world; then lays VR in it in a way that may seem almost as compelling as the effects in AR headphones made by Microsoft and Magic Leap. I expect Meta Cambria to try something very similar.

Meta’s aspirations for future AR glasses not yet implemented, but Cambria could be a toolkit for developers to make AR-type experiences that can also use hand (and eye) tracking.

The next VR headphones on Facebook will have face and eye tracking.


How will eye tracking work?

We don’t know the details, but most VR eye tracking works in a similar way: infrared cameras measure eye movement, while some trackers also capture images of your eye. Eye tracking does a few pretty useful things: Foveated imaging can create better graphics with less CPU power, showing the highest-resolution details only where it looks at your eye’s fovea, which potentially means better battery life or performance in smaller headphones.

Eye tracking can also be used to create more realistic eye contact for avatars and to combine with hand tracking and controllers to improve control accuracy. This may even mean better accessibility for people who do not have full mobility, using only eye controls to control the VR interface.

Meta seems to be adding cameras to track faces, as well as eye tracking, which can be used to map emotions and facial expressions into avatars. But all this tracking comes with additional privacy issues. While Meta promised transparency and restrictions on how tracking data is used, Facebook ‘s history on user data abuse leaves many to worry about.

It probably won’t be that much of a game console

If the Cambria headphones are more than $ 800, there is no way they can be as popular as Quest 2 is now. Meta seems to be suggesting that this is not the point of Cambria, which means that game developers may not be as focused on the new hardware.

Facebook has a history of funding many games and art projects on its VR platforms, but it looks like Cambria may not be debuting new games. Instead, Meta is likely to focus on a wide range of business, training, fitness and AR crossover applications to help build its metaverse visions. In that sense, current Quest 2 owners may already have the best VR game console for a while (at least until the PlayStation VR 2 arrives).

The latest Meta Cambria Information report confirms that the biggest benefits of these headphones – better display resolution, eye tracking, mixed reality – will be tools to improve Meta’s vision for work and the future of VR. . Look for competing high-end VR and AR products such as the Vive Focus 3, Hololens 2 and Varjo headphones, where professional use is the clear goal. Meta has had great success, appealing to gamers, but it will be harder to convince jobs to adopt its technology.

Quest 2 and controllers

Quest 2, released in 2020, is still one of our favorite headphones. It may not be replaced until 2023.

Scott Stein / CNET

Do you have to buy Quest 2 now or wait for future Quest 3?

A true successor to Quest 2 may not happen until 2023, according to the latest reports. Quest 3 is expected to be a handset that will compete at the same price as Quest 2 and will probably replace it, but not this year. However, Cambria is not expected to be this handset. If the Cambria headphones are as expensive as Meta says it is, they probably won’t even compete with Quest 2 for most buyers. Instead, it could be more about imposing more advanced features (eye tracking, mixed reality, better display quality), which could eventually merge into more affordable products later.

Keep the Cambria and Quest 3 concepts separate in your head and this will help you plan your purchasing decisions. Cambria may be attractive only to enthusiasts and professional consumers with money to spend. I don’t expect any VR headset to be able to compete with Quest 2 for $ 300 any time soon.

Quest 2 is still a fantastic handset for its price and Meta continues to update the software with new features regularly. Unless you’re a professional looking for high-end headphones at all costs, you probably don’t have to wait for anything to become a Cambria later this year. However, if you have a PlayStation 5, you may want to wait and see what PlayStation VR 2 is like.

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