The Meta Quest 3 is here, with a starting price of $499, and before I begin ranting, let me start with the positive: It's launching right out the gate compatible with Roblox (along with Quest 2 and Quest Pro), so it's immediately metaverse friendly. That's good!
Now to rant — or maybe "stand there, utterly confounded and amused " is a better way of putting it.
The Quest 3 launch reflects a complete shift by Meta, openly imitating Apple's Vision Pro launch from early this year. You can see that in the product trailer above, and it's heavy, near-complete focus on Mixed Reality experiences.
Contrast with how Meta launched the Quest 2 in 2020:
Oculus Quest changed the game for wireless VR. It delivered fresh experiences for enthusiasts and new opportunities for developers, all while introducing immersive gaming to newcomers across the globe. Today, we’re excited to announce Oculus Quest 2, the next generation of all-in-one VR. Quest 2 pushes the state of VR forward with a redesigned all-in-one form factor, new Touch controllers and our highest-resolution display ever.
With Quest 3's marketing, VR is far less mentioned. Just read the announcement:
Immersive experiences like virtual reality can transport you to fantastical worlds that defy the laws of physics, but the physical world — and the connections you’ve made there — are pretty important, too. We believe you shouldn’t have to choose between them. That’s why Meta Quest 3 features breakthrough mixed reality that enables a spectrum of experiences.
This paragraph is actually the only time "virtual reality" is mentioned in the Quest 3 announcement.
Mentions of "mixed reality": FIVE.
On the one hand, this reflects the reality that the Quest 2's VR-forward approach has failed to gain mass market traction, with only 20 million or so units sold. Further, I wouldn't be surprised if this is partly an attempt to shift away from the nausea effects from full VR experiences that I mention in the book.
On the other hand, small problem:
There's little evidence of consumer interest in mixed reality experiences.
It's even one of the myths I cover in Making a Metaverse That Matters, though there I call it AR or XR. (Though I think both terms are on their way out.) With this excerpt, you can just replace "metaverse" with "anything consumers provably want":
Augmented reality (AR or sometimes XR for “extended reality”) is often proposed as an inevitable companion to the Metaverse. Why only offer people a virtual world, the argument might run, when we have the technology to add a layer of data over the real world that’s viewable by an AR headset or a smartphone? Surely that should also be a part of any metaverse platform.
Attempts to incorporate AR into a metaverse platform, however, have met a reception that’s questionable at best. As I write this in late 2023, a company called Niantic, creator of the wildly successful AR mobile game Pokémon GO (where pokemon seemingly pop up in the real world right in front of the player) is pressing forward with plans to launch a “Real-World Metaverse".
One fundamental challenge: Does anyone even want this? Pokémon GO remains the only massively successful augmented reality game on the market, both in general and for Niantic in particular. (Its AR-driven follow-up to Pokémon GO, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, despite mass market brand recognition, fell far short in terms of active users.)
Snow Crash, we’re obligated to note, does not depict AR or XR as part of the Metaverse, even though the hero’s “gargoyle” headset is revealed to have AR capabilities once the Metaverse is switched off, which he uses to navigate a dark passage.
None of the visions painted for AR in the Metaverse, however, address the unresolved social pushback that XR owners get in public, ignoring people around them to check the data stream on their inner screen — or worse, pointing a live camera at them without prior content.
Decades before Google’s “Glasshole” scandal in 2014, when the search giant’s first foray into AR headsets was rejected as creepy even in technophile San Francisco, Neal Stephenson had this to say about wearing an HMD in public: “[I]t's not pretty. In fact, it's so ugly that it probably explains why gargoyles are, in general, so socially retarded.”
And so here we are: Apple pursuing its mixed reality vision for the niche but lucrative Mac Pro market of content creators. And Meta doggedly following Apple's path, but still spending billions after billions already burnt away, hoping against all evidence that there's a mass market for screens strapped to people's faces.
Read More: nwn.blogs.com