Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is dealing with setbacks in its ambitious plans for an Augmented Reality (AR) headset, now with a projected public release in 2027. This comes amid significant competition in the market, as Apple’s Vision Pro is already paving the way for AR and Virtual Reality (VR) experiences, although it’s more of a VR headset with camera passthrough, rather than a pure AR headset. A more comparable competitor would be the Microsoft HoloLens.

Meta initially sought to outshine Apple with a pre-announcement of the Meta Quest 3 headset, mere days before Apple’s Vision Pro launch. Adding to its attempt to seize the AR spotlight, Meta had also secured the entire production of AR displays from manufacturer Plessey back in 2020.

Unfortunately, the partnership with Plessey has reportedly taken a turn for the worse, as the company failed to produce sufficiently bright displays for Meta’s liking. As a result, Meta is said to have abandoned the microLED technology developed by Plessey, instead opting for the older, cheaper, but tried-and-true liquid crystal on silicon (LCos) technology.

The setback comes as Meta has a four-year plan in place, promising to release an updated Meta Quest 3 VR headset by the end of 2023. This delay, however, highlights the stark differences between VR and AR technologies. While a VR headset immerses users in a digitally created world, an AR headset overlays digital content onto the user’s real-world surroundings, much like what Apple’s Vision Pro offers.

Despite the hiccup, Meta still plans on introducing an internal-only demonstration AR headset, codenamed Orion, in 2024. Interestingly, this version will continue to utilize Plessey’s underperforming microLED displays, since Meta has progressed too far to change the design at this stage.

As for Artemis, Meta’s public AR headset now delayed until 2027, the company is making cost-cutting decisions. This includes a shift from using silicon carbide to glass, resulting in a reduced field of view in comparison to previous designs. With these changes, Meta’s 2027 AR headset will have a field of view of 50 degrees, similar to Microsoft’s HoloLens and Magic Leap’s headset, and less than the 70-degree view offered by Meta’s silicon carbide design.

Interestingly, Apple’s Vision Pro boasts a field of view of 120 degrees, albeit in the context of a VR headset with camera passthrough rather than a pure AR device. In other words, while it may offer broader visual coverage, it’s not a direct competitor in the AR market in the same way HoloLens is.

Meta’s compromise list has reportedly expanded to include cancelling a LiDAR feature and a projector that would allow multiple users to see AR/VR objects simultaneously.

There’s also concern for Meta’s existing headset models. Reports indicate that Meta will stop ordering new components for its latest Quest Pro headset and will cease production once the current supplies run out.

It is evident that while Meta is grappling with technology and supply challenges, Apple’s Vision Pro and Microsoft’s HoloLens continue to set the bar in the immersive technology market. With the delayed timeline, it remains to be seen if Meta’s augmented reality efforts will catch up to its competitors or redefine the standard in the immersive headset industry.