Meta plans to release its first pair of smart glasses with a display in 2025 along with a neural interface smartwatch designed to control them. The lip has learned. Meanwhile, its first pair of AR glasses, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg has predicted will eventually be as widely used as cellphones, is slated for 2027.
The details were shared with thousands of employees at Meta’s Reality Labs division on Tuesday during a roadmap presentation of its AR and VR efforts shared with The lip. Taken together, they show how Meta plans to continue investing in consumer hardware after a series of setbacks and broader company-wide cost-cutting. A representative for Meta declined to comment for this story.
As for the VR roadmap, employees were told that Meta’s flagship Quest 3 headset coming out later this year will be twice as thin, at least twice as powerful, and cost slightly more than the $400 Quest 2. Like the recently announced Quest Pro, it will prominently feature mixed reality experiences that don’t fully immerse the user, thanks to front-facing cameras that feed through real-world video. Meta has sold nearly 20 million Quest headsets to date, Mark Rabkin, the company’s vice president of VR, told employees at the launch.
(I’ll have more from this meeting and my thoughts on the Meta roadmap in Thursday’s issue of the Command Line newsletter.)
Meta’s main challenge with Quest 3, which is internally codenamed Stinson, will be getting people to pay “a little more” money than the existing Quest 2 costs, according to Rabkin. “We have to fire up the enthusiasts for this,” he told employees Tuesday. “We have to prove to people that all this power, all these new features are worth it.”
Meta has sold nearly 20 million Quest headsets to date
Mixed reality will be a huge selling point, and Rabkin said there will be a new “smart watchdog” that will help users navigate the real world while wearing the device. “The key north star for the team was from the moment you put that headset on, mixed reality has to make it feel better, easier, more natural,” he said. “You can walk effortlessly through your home knowing that you can see perfectly. You can put anchors and things on your desktop. You can have your coffee. You can stay there much longer.”
41 new apps and games will ship for Quest 3, including new mixed-reality experiences to take advantage of the updated hardware, Rabkin said. In 2024, he said Meta plans to ship a more “accessible” handset codenamed Ventura. “The goal for this headset is very simple: to pack the biggest punch we can at the most attractive price point in the consumer VR market.”
Rabkin did not say if this is a second generation of the recent Meta Quest Pro, which received poor reviews from The lip and more, coming soon. The closest thing to what sounds like a successor will be “way to the future” after Ventura in 2024, when Meta designs its most advanced headset, codenamed La Jolla, with photorealistic, coder avatars.
“We want to make it higher resolution for work use and really do nail, text and things like that,” Rabkin said of La Jolla. “We want to take a lot of the comfort stuff from the Quest Pro and the way it sits on your head and the split architecture and bring it for comfort.”
Meanwhile, he acknowledged that the current Quest is struggling to keep new users engaged. “Right now, we’re in the third year of Quest 2,” he told employees. “And unfortunately, the younger cohorts that are coming in, the people who bought it last Christmas, they just don’t like it” or engage with “early buyers.”
Rabkin pushed employees to make sharing VR content on other platforms “trivial,” redesign the Quest store to make it more “dynamic,” and give developers the ability to do things like automated offers.
The current Quest struggles to keep new users engaged
“We need to be better at growth, retention and resurrection,” he said. “We have to be better at social and make these things more reliable, more intuitive, so people can rely on it.”
Even with these struggles, Meta has established an early lead in VR hardware. But its big swings over the next few years speak to the serious competition it’s about to get. Apple is expected to announce a high-end VR headset sometime this year, while Sony just released the PSVR 2 to great success for console gamers. Meanwhile, Apple, Google, Snap and others are racing towards something even bigger: augmented reality glasses — and that’s where Meta hopes its early mixed-reality efforts will really pay off.
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In addition to the Quest line, Meta also has thousands of employees building future AR glasses and wrist devices to control them. The key difference from VR is that the company intends the AR glasses to eventually be worn throughout the day as a replacement for smartphones. Zuckerberg called them the “holy grail” device that will “redefine our relationship with technology” by the end of this decade.
During Tuesday’s roadmap presentation, Alex Himel, the company’s vice president of AR, laid out the plan for a range of devices through 2027. The first release will be this fall with the second generation of Meta’s smart glasses with a camera released in 2021 with Luxottica, the parent company of Ray-Ban.
In 2025, Himel said the third generation of smart glasses will come with a screen he called a “viewfinder” to view incoming text messages, scan QR codes and translate text from another language in real time. The glasses will come with a “neural interface” band that allows the wearer to control the glasses through hand movements, such as swiping fingers on an imaginary D-pad. Eventually, he said the band will let the user use a virtual keyboard and type at the same words per minute that mobile phones allow.
The smartwatch will integrate with Meta’s social networking apps and offer health and fitness features
While Meta has finalized plans for a smartwatch with a detachable screen and cameras, it’s still working on another smartwatch to go with the 2025 glasses, Himel confirmed.
“We don’t want people to have to choose between an input device on their wrist and the smartwatch functionality they’ve come to love,” he said. “So we’re building a neural interface clock. Number one, this device is going to input: input to control your glasses, input to control functionality on your wrist, and input to control the world around you.”
Himel showed employees a demonstration of the glasses in which, during a video call, cameras on the glasses showed the wearer’s frontal perspective at the same time as a selfie view from the camera on the watch. He said the smartwatch will be an optional upgrade from a paired neural band that comes with the glasses, and will also integrate with Meta’s social networking apps like WhatsApp and offer health and fitness features.
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Meta’s first true pair of AR glasses, which the company has been developing internally for 8 years under the code name Orion, are more technically advanced, expensive, and designed to project high-quality avatar holograms into the real world. There will be an “internal launch” for employees to try the glasses in 2024, according to Himel. A version won’t be released to the public until 2027, when Meta will launch Himel’s “Innovation” line of AR glasses for early adopters, along with a “Scale” line of less-advanced smart glasses and its second-generation Neural. smart watch.
Himel framed the market opportunity around the nearly two billion pairs of regular glasses and hundreds of millions of smartwatches sold each year. “If we can put a great product on the shelves at a great price with the right value, we think we can get into those upgrade cycles and have a lot of growth in our devices,” he told the room. “It’s up to us to deliver.”
“A business unlike anything we’ve seen in mobile before”
Meta plans to build on its existing advertising business model to help it monetize these future devices. Himel said the company believes it can average higher revenue per user than it currently makes on social media, thanks to a combination of selling virtual goods, optional add-ons like cloud backup and AR ads.
“We should be able to run a very good ad business,” he said. “I think it’s easy to imagine how ads would appear in space when you’re wearing AR glasses. Our ability to track conversions, which has been a big focus as a company, should also be close to 100 percent.”
“If we hit anything close to the projections, it will be a huge business,” he said. “A business unlike anything we’ve seen in mobile phones before.”
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