This is Meta’s AR/VR hardware roadmap for the next four years
Meta plans to release its first pair of smart glasses with a display in 2025 alongside a neural interface smartwatch designed to control them, The Verge has learned. Meanwhile, its first pair of full-fledged AR glasses, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg has predicted will eventually be as widely used as mobile phones, is planned for 2027.
The details were shared with thousands of employees in Meta’s Reality Labs division on Tuesday during a roadmap presentation of its AR and VR efforts that was shared with The Verge. Altogether, they show how Meta is planning to keep investing in consumer hardware after a series of setbacks and broader cost cutting across the company. A spokesperson for Meta declined to comment for this story.
With regards to the VR roadmap, employees were told that Meta’s flagship Quest 3 headset coming later this year will be two times thinner, 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 wearer, thanks to front-facing cameras that pass through video of the real world. Meta has sold nearly 20 million Quest headsets to date, Mark Rabkin, the company’s vice president for VR, told employees during the presentation.
(I’ll have more from this meeting and my thoughts about Meta’s roadmap in Thursday’s issue of my newsletter Command Line.)
Three new Quest models
Meta’s main challenge with the Quest 3, which is internally codenamed Stinson, will be convincing people to pay “a bit more” money than the cost of the existing Quest 2, according to Rabkin. “We have to get enthusiasts fired up about it,” 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 guardian” to help wearers navigate the real world while they are wearing the device. “The main north star for the team was from the moment you put on this headset, the mixed reality has to make it feel better, easier, more natural,” he said. “You can walk effortlessly through your house knowing you can see perfectly well. You can put anchors and things on your desktop. You can take your coffee. You can stay in there much longer.”
There will be 41 new apps and games shipping for the Quest 3, including new mixed reality experiences to take advantage of the updated hardware, Rabkin said. In 2024, he said that Meta plans to ship a more “accessible” headset codenamed Ventura. “The goal for this headset is very simple: pack the biggest punch we can at the most attractive price point in the VR consumer market.”
Rabkin didn’t say whether a second generation of the recent Meta Quest Pro, which received poor reviews from The Verge and others, is coming anytime soon. The closest to what sounds like a successor will be “way out in the future” after Ventura in 2024, when Meta is planning its most advanced headset codenamed La Jolla featuring photorealistic, codec avatars.
“We want to make it higher resolution for work use and really nail work, text and things like that,” Rabkin said about La Jolla. “We want to take a lot of the comfort things from Quest Pro and how it sits on your head and the split architecture and bring that in for comfort.”
Meanwhile, he acknowledged that the current Quest is struggling to keep new users engaged. “Right now, we’re on our third year of Quest 2,” he told employees. “And sadly, the newer cohorts that are coming in, the people who bought it this last Christmas, they’re just not as into it” or engaged as “the ones who bought it early.”
Rabkin pushed employees to make the sharing of 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 promotions.
The current Quest is struggling to keep new users engaged
“We need to be better at growth and retention and resurrection,” he said. “We need to be better at social and actually make those things more reliable, more intuitive so people can count on it.”
Even with these struggles, Meta has built an early lead in virtual reality hardware. But its big swings over the coming years speak to the serious competition that’s about to arrive. Apple is expected to announce a high-end virtual reality headset sometime this year, while Sony just released the well-received PSVR 2 for console gamers. Meanwhile, Apple, Google, Snap, and others are all racing toward something even bigger: augmented reality glasses — and that’s where Meta is hoping its early efforts in the mixed reality space will really pay off.
AR glasses and neural interfaces
Aside from the Quest lineup, Meta also has thousands of employees building future AR glasses and wrist devices for controlling them. The key difference from VR is that the company intends for AR glasses to eventually be worn throughout the day as a replacement for smartphones. Zuckerberg has 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 for AR, laid out the plan for a bevy of devices through 2027. The first launch will come this fall with the second generation of Meta’s camera-equipped smart glasses it released in 2021 with Luxottica, the parent company of Ray-Ban.
In 2025, Himel said the third generation of the smart glasses will ship with a display that he called a “viewfinder” for viewing incoming text messages, scanning QR codes, and translating 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 wearer use a virtual keyboard and type at the same words per minute as what mobile phones allow.
The smartwatch will integrate with Meta’s social media apps and offer health and fitness features
While Meta canned its plans for a smartwatch with a detachable display and cameras, it’s still working on another smartwatch to accompany its 2025 glasses, Himel confirmed.
“We don’t want people to have to choose between an input device on their wrist and smartwatch functionality that they’ve come to love,” he said. “So we are building a neural interfaces watch. Number one, this device will do input: input to control your glasses, input to control the functionality on your wrist, and input to control the world around you.”
Himel showed employees a demo of the glasses in which, during a video call, the cameras on the glasses were showing the wearer’s front-facing perspective at the same time as a selfie view was being shown from the camera on the watch. He said the smartwatch will be an optional upgrade from a paired-down neural band that comes with the glasses, and that it will also integrate with Meta’s social media apps like WhatsApp and offer health and fitness features.
Meta’s first true pair of AR glasses, which the company has been internally developing for 8 years under the codename Orion, are more technically advanced, expensive, and designed to project high-quality holograms of avatars onto the real world. There will be an “internal launch” for employees to test the glasses in 2024, according to Himel. A version won’t be released to the public until 2027, when Meta will launch what Himel called its “Innovation” line of AR glasses for early adopters alongside a “Scale” line of the less advanced smart glasses and the second generation of its neural smartwatch.
Himel framed the market opportunity around the almost two billion pairs of regular glasses and hundreds of millions of smartwatches that are sold each year. “If we can put on shelves a great product at a great price with the right value, we believe we can get into these upgrade cycles and have a lot of growth of our devices,” he told the room. “It’s on us to deliver.”
“A business unlike anything we’ve seen on mobile phones before”
Meta is planning to rely on its existing business model of advertising to help it make money off these future devices. Himel said the company thinks it can make a higher average revenue per user than what it makes currently in social media, thanks to a combination of selling virtual goods, optional add-ons like cloud backups, and AR ads.
“We should be able to run a very good ads business,” he said. “I think it’s easy to imagine how ads would show up in space when you have AR glasses on. Our ability to track conversions, which is where there has been a lot of focus as a company, should also be close to 100 percent.”
“If we’re hitting anything near projections, it will be a tremendous business,” he said. “A business unlike anything we’ve seen on mobile phones before.”