Mark Zuckerberg holds his company's new VR headset, the Meta Quest Pro.
Meta
October 13, 2022 4:20 PM EDT

A version of this article was published in TIME’s newsletter Into the Metaverse. Subscribe for a weekly guide to the future of the Internet. You can find past issues of the newsletter here.

Will Meta, formerly known as Facebook, be the company that brings the average person into the metaverse? Ever since Mark Zuckerberg announced his company’s name change last year, he and his staff have signaled over and over that metaverse development is their utmost priority. This week, the company moved closer to their grand ambitions by announcing their latest virtual reality (VR) headset: the Meta Quest Pro.

Meta hopes the Meta Quest Pro will be more comfortable to wear than the Quest 2, offer cleaner graphics, and position the company as the leader of a metaverse work future. The company needs the headset to succeed: the company is losing billions a year on its VR investments, while recent reports have alleged turmoil and disarray inside the company, with its employees reportedly showing reluctance to use its flagship VR app, Horizon Worlds.

While reviewers say the Quest Pro is markedly improved from its predecessor in many areas, it comes with a heavy price tag, $1,500, that will likely keep the layperson away. Here’s what to know about Meta’s new device.

The new headset is improved—and expensive.

The Quest Pro will be available for $1,499.99 on October 25. That’s more than triple the price of the Quest 2.

Why does the Pro cost so much? There are plenty of upgrades to this new device. Its outward-facing cameras have 4 times the number of pixels as the Quest 2, for instance, which renders surrounding environments with much higher clarity. Its field of view is wider; colors pop, and blacks look much darker. The device’s new hand controllers have additional features and can serve as virtual pens, allowing you to write and sketch with precision.

One of the most cutting edge features of the Pro is its eye tracking, which lets your avatars mimic your facial expressions with uncanny accuracy. Users can now wink, blow out their cheeks or make eye contact with other users. Meta hopes that this upgrade will make socializing in VR feel much more connective and visceral, although many people have concerns about how all of this biometric data will be used. (The company says that the massive amount of data collected from these tracking features will be stored locally and then deleted after use.)

But amid all the improvements, the price increase of the Pro is steep, and will likely dissuade anyone simply curious about VR from ordering one on a whim. Rather, the price places it more in line with other specialty VR headsets designed for gaming or technology enthusiasts. Meta hopes that architects, engineers, designers, or others in creative fields will choose to invest in the new model for their work, and that owning one or more Pros will become essential to many small businesses going forward.

The ultimate goal is AR, not VR.

In his recent interview with Joe Rogan, Zuckerberg said that Meta’s current headsets were simply stepping stones toward an augmented reality (AR) future, in which everyone wears smart glasses that allow you to overlay digital graphics or objects onto the real world. (A map in AR would lay out an arrow on the street pointing to your destination, for instance.) Accordingly, the Pro has several AR capabilities. The DJ app Tribe XR, for instance, allows you to operate a virtual mixing board and turntables while being able to look out on the actual party you’re playing music for. Another app allows you to paint on a virtual canvas, and then see how your finished masterpiece looks hanging up on your bedroom wall.

Will Meta’s business focus pay off?

Zuckerberg has often this year positioned the metaverse as the future of remote work. This week, he doubled down on this focus, announcing partnerships with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other software solutions for workplace environments. Early demos showed off the ability of a Pro user to sit at their desk, strap into their headset, and connect to three giant monitors, in which they can video conference, build slideshows and more. The Pro also allows the user to write and put up virtual sticky notes around their work station.

But one major problem lingers: the Pro’s battery life is only 1-2 hours. The remote controllers reportedly last the same amount of time. You could plug into an outlet if you have a long enough power cable—but that would require your head to be tethered into a socket for 8 hours a day. So while Meta is aiming for the headset to be your de facto workstation, the Pro simply doesn’t yet have the firepower to allow you to do so.

Reviews have been mixed.

Much of the early online chatter about the Pro arose from absurdist memes about Meta’s avatars now having legs. However, a handful of reporters and vloggers wrote more substantive reactions after getting early access to the headset, and offered a mix of praise and skepticism.

“If you have the funding or a rich benefactor, I highly recommend getting your hands on the Meta Quest Pro,” wrote Sherri L. Smith in Laptop Mag. “The Quest Pro is an excellent showcase of what Meta can do today and a technological stake in the ground before Apple claims it invented mixed reality… I don’t see this device replacing laptops,” Anshel Sag wrote in Forbes.

In the Washington Post, Geoffrey A. Fowler complained of “painfully slow” virtual screens and developing a headache after wearing the device for an extended period of time. “After trying the headset in six creative and workplace demonstrations chosen by Meta, I still couldn’t identify a killer example of how Meta’s big hardware step forward unlocks the missing promise of the metaverse,” he wrote.

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