Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has unveiled its AR/VR hardware roadmap for the next four years. During an internal presentation, the company laid out plans for three new Quest headsets, AR glasses in 2027, and a “neural interface” smartwatch. These plans demonstrate Meta’s commitment to investing in consumer hardware despite the challenges it has faced and the cost-cutting measures it has implemented.
Meta’s flagship Quest 3 headset, internally codenamed Stinson, will be released later this year and will be two times thinner, at least twice as powerful, and cost slightly more than the $400 Quest 2. The headset will feature mixed reality experiences that don’t fully immerse the wearer, thanks to front-facing cameras that pass through video of the real world. Mixed reality will be a significant selling point for the Quest 3, and the device will come with a new “smart guardian” to help wearers navigate the real world.
Meta also plans to release a more “accessible” headset codenamed Ventura in 2024, and its most advanced headset codenamed La Jolla featuring photorealistic, codec avatars. In addition to the VR roadmap, Meta is also working on AR glasses and wrist devices. 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, the third generation of the smart glasses will ship with a display that Meta calls 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, the band will let the wearer use a virtual keyboard and type at the same words per minute as what mobile phones allow (more on that below).
Meta’s first true pair of AR glasses, which the company has been internally developing for eight years under the codename Orion, are more technically advanced, expensive, and are 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, and a version won’t be released to the public until 2027. Meta will launch what it calls 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.
According to Alex Himel, the company’s vice president for AR, the smartwatch will be launched alongside the third generation of smart glasses in 2025.
The smartwatch will serve as an input device to control the glasses, functionality on the wrist, and the world around the wearer. It will offer health and fitness features and integrate with Meta’s social media apps like WhatsApp. Himel showed employees a demo of the glasses in which the cameras on the glasses showed the wearer’s front-facing perspective during a video call, while a selfie view was shown from the camera on the watch.
The neural interface band will allow the wearer to control the glasses through hand movements such as swiping fingers on an imaginary D-pad. Eventually, 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 be an optional upgrade from a paired-down neural band that comes with the glasses.
Meta’s previous plans for a smartwatch with a detachable display and cameras were scrapped. However, the company is still working on another smartwatch to accompany its 2025 glasses. Himel said the smartwatch’s neural interface and wrist device functionality would be separate to avoid forcing people to choose between them. The neural interface smartwatch will be an essential part of Meta’s AR/VR ecosystem, offering users a way to control their devices seamlessly.
Meta plans to rely on its existing business model of advertising to help it make money off these future devices. 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. Meta’s VP for AR, Alex Himel, believes that if the company delivers a great product at a great price with the right value, it can get into the upgrade cycles of the almost two billion pairs of regular glasses and hundreds of millions of smartwatches sold each year.