The Quest 3, Meta’s new VR headset, is now on sale.

If you’ve ever thought about trying virtual reality, it’s time to jump in. The Quest 3 has excellent specs for the price. It is sufficiently improved over anything before that it tips the scales if you’re already curious. If you saw the hype about Apple’s Vision Pro but it’s out of your budget, the Quest 3 is a fine option.

At one time I thought the Quest 3 would be greeted with a burst of excitement and huge sales through the holidays. There’s still a chance of that but it would require marketing to make people aware of what the Quest 3 can do. If there has been any marketing, I’ve missed it. I’m baffled. It’s like they’re not trying.

I watched Mark Zuckerberg’s presentation of the Quest 3 at a press event. When I listen to Zuckerberg’s full comments about something (as opposed to clips out of context), I find him insightful and interesting. His remarks about virtual reality and community at the Meta Connect 2023 conference were thought-provoking.

Generating excitement onstage is a separate skill. Zuckerberg does not have that skill. When he was finished with the introduction of Quest 3, it lay flopping on the stage like a dying fish. It deserved better.

Quest 3 is for gamers. If you’re not a gamer, pay attention anyway.

Why should you care if you’re not a gamer?

Quest 3 is what progress looks like while it’s happening.

We’re on a long road to a world where we see digital information overlaid on the world, like the yellow first down lines onscreen during a football game. Maybe we’ll all wear thin and light glasses everywhere, just like we carry phones today. And just like phones, we’ll use them for communication and entertainment and maps and information.

That’s not possible today.

But the Quest 3 headsets are a step down that road – thinner and lighter than previous devices; better performance and far better display; standalone instead of tethered to some other bit of tech; and improved cameras for a clearer display of the real world (“passthrough”) than ever before. 

If you see articles about the Quest 3 complaining that they are not yet delivering true “mixed reality” (the currently trendy term for augmented reality), it’s true. It’s also not particularly relevant. That’s 5-10 years away. Devices like the Quest 3, and the devices that will follow it during the next decade – those are how we will get there, one step at a time.

Here are some of the reasons you might want to try a Quest 3 for yourself.

Media consumption  I know I keep saying it’s only for gamers but it’s worth noting that there are Quest 3 apps for watching Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube on huge crystal clear screens with decent sound. You can have a great Quest 3 experience sitting in a chair watching a movie, just like those folks in the Apple Vision Pro presentation. The Netflix app looks exactly like the picture above.

Productivity  Last year Meta tried to jump-start a business environment for VR with its expensive Quest Pro headset. It was too early. The devices were too expensive; the app for meetings – Horizon Workrooms – was clumsy; and businesses were not excited by attending a meeting with cartoon-like avatars.

Apple’s Vision Pro is intended to bypass those problems with a crisp visual presentation of work apps hanging in the air, combined with Apple’s cachet to overcome people’s reluctance to try the new tech.

The Quest 3 will mimic some of that presentation later this year, hoping to deliver some of Apple’s vision at a miniscule fraction of the price. Microsoft will release Word, Excel and Powerpoint in apps that run on giant VR screens, just like the Vision Pro. At some point, the Horizon Workrooms app will integrate Microsoft Teams and other enterprise apps for meetings and collaboration.

There will be a few brave souls doing work on Quest 3, just like I’m writing this on my Quest Pro.

Perhaps more important, there has finally been a demo of astoundingly lifelike avatars. Mark Zuckerberg did an interview for a video podcast which appears to be nothing more than two people chatting in front of cameras. They are actually both avatars being displayed in Quest Pros but there is no uncanny-valley effect to give away the illusion. The tech is still in its infancy and it may take 3-5 years to arrive, but it will make a big difference in the business world.

Roblox and Lego Bricktales  I wrote in January about how big a phenomenon Roblox is for kids. It is available now as a full VR experience for Quest 3. It might singlehandedly make Quest 3 a much-requested Xmas present this year.

In December Lego Bricktales will be available for Quest 3. It’s going to make a virtual Lego set appear on your coffee table. Lego has a track record for making things absurdly enjoyable. Seriously, have you seen the Lego movies or played the video games? Maybe the VR game will be awesome.

Xbox Cloud Gaming  VR does not have enough AAA titles – the big budget games that suck in gamers for hundreds of hours. Zuckerberg mentioned in passing that Xbox Cloud Gaming will be available on Quest 3 later this year. It’s a way to play flatscreen games on a giant screen in the Quest 3 headset, using an Xbox controller just as you would to play on a TV.

Cloud streaming tech for games is in its infancy. But the idea of playing a AAA title on a big screen using a standalone headset in any room, no TV required – that has potential.

I’d like to think Quest 3 will find its audience and start selling millions by Xmas. It will increase awareness of VR and draw in developers to create even more compelling experiences. Maybe the marketing department is still warming up. Try it, you might like it!

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