The anticipated launch of Apple Inc.’s mixed-reality headset is likely to be a seismic event in the tech world this year. However, Apple’s unchallenged supremacy may be short-lived. Meta Platforms Inc., the current leader in Extended Reality (XR), continues to refine its devices, positioning itself as a serious competitor in the rapidly expanding mixed reality market.

The unfolding competition mirrors the past tussles in the smartphone industry, where Apple’s iPhone dominated the high-end market, and Google’s Android excelled in the budget-friendly segment. Apple is expected to command the high-end headset market, while Meta remains a formidable presence in the more affordable segment.

Interestingly, Apple’s entry into XR, creating substantial industry buzz, might indirectly benefit Meta by driving consumer interest, especially those unable to afford Apple’s high-end headset but still keen to experience XR technology.

This competitive tension is set to intensify over the coming months. Apple plans to unveil its headset on June 5, while Meta intends to announce its latest model, the Quest 3, in October.

A first-hand preview of the unannounced Meta Quest 3 by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reveals significant improvements over its predecessor. The next iteration in Meta’s popular VR headset line, codenamed ‘Eureka,’ presents a notably lighter and sleeker design. The strap is more robust, using fabric on the sides instead of the Quest 2’s plastic.

Eureka also shows off enhancements in sensor design, featuring three vertical sensor zones on the face, each serving distinct functions. The sensors on either side incorporate a color video pass-through camera, a first for the Quest line, while the central sensor houses a depth sensor.

Comfort has also been addressed, as the Quest 3 allows users to adjust the interpupillary distance (IPD) with an external wheel, an upgrade over the Quest 2’s manual adjustments within the device.

Though the display quality seems similar to the Quest 2, the Quest 3 makes significant strides in video pass-through capabilities and overall performance. With its dual RGB color cameras, the Quest 3’s video pass-through provides a near-lifelike rendering of the real world. The device’s navigation, app launching, and gaming speeds are considerably enhanced, powered by the second-generation Qualcomm Inc.’s Snapdragon XR2 chip.

Control for the Quest 3 is maintained via left and right hand remotes, along with in-air hand tracking, a feature continued from the existing Quest model. Despite the absence of face and eye tracking, which is expected in the Apple device and currently present in the higher-end Quest Pro, the Quest 3 boasts redesigned hand controllers similar to those of the Quest Pro.

Meta Quest 2

The older Meta Quest 2

Perhaps Meta’s strongest edge is its extensive library of VR games, an area where Apple is trying to catch up. Although Apple plans to establish a foothold by providing access to a vast number of iPad apps, Meta’s seasoned experience in VR gaming puts it in a competitive position.

While the exact price for the Quest 3 is yet to be finalized, industry insiders expect a slight increase from the Quest 2’s $400.

Despite the mounting competition, the Quest 3 makes an impressive case for itself. Its focus on mixed reality, significantly improved video pass-through capabilities, enhanced performance, and broad content library make it a strong contender. Given its speculated price of about $500, it could serve as an affordable alternative to Apple’s premium offering. As the holiday season approaches and XR continues to captivate consumers, the Quest 3 could potentially make a substantial impact on the market.