On February 8, 2023
As we head into the next generation of XR hardware, here are some of the big developments and releases coming out of the industry.
Where Is XR Heading?
Terminology and ease of access has meant that it has been a challenge to inform the general public about XR platforms. But at last, we are seeing a shift from dedicated platform-specific hardware to agnostic all-in-one devices that makes sense for all involved.
As developers, we can design multi-purpose experiences that are fluid whilst the consumers need only to concern themselves with a single piece of kit that can do it all. That’s the direction we’re going in right now and companies are laying their cards on the table in a bid to be the dominant force driving us forward through their own varying strategies.
Think how Microsoft revolutionized personal computers, or how Apple changed the mobile phone market forever. We’re on the cusp of another life-changing piece of technology and the race is on.
There has been a multitude of devices announced, rumored, and even speculated upon. The common themes you’ll see pushed by the marketing teams are weight and resolution.
Let’s take a look at the technology coming our way.
What Is Everyone Working On?
Magic Leap 2
Magic Leap jumped the starting gun and played their cards early. The Magic Leap 2 was released in September last year with an entry price point of $3,299.
An updated version of their first MR device, it features 1440 x 1760 resolution and weighs in at a tiny 260g. In comparison to the upcoming competitors we’ll discuss, this device by far stands above the rest in terms of financial expense alongside Apple. Magic Leap are now also teasing Magic Leap 3.
Apple’s Reality Pro is rumoured to be unveiled in the next few months and a speculated price point of $3000 puts it up there with the Magic Leap 2 for its inaccessibility to the average consumer.
With Apple being rumoured to enter the field of VR/AR, there are numerous speculations of these high price tags and a focus on productivity over gaming, which has been a major drive in VR platform focus in the past few years.
It will be interesting to see what Apple brings to the field as there might not have been much of a consumer-side push for a VR device that is focused on productivity, taking calls, and using regular phone apps in VR over just gaming or fitness.
The device will supposedly make use of hand tracking or a clothes-pin like finger module for pointing and selection. Meta, in contrast, is aiming for a more commercially viable XR product.
The Quest 3 is one of the most anticipated and discussed XR headsets this year, with little information being known about it even now. Zuckerberg has tipped a price point between $300-500 and the release is expected later this year.
There is currently much speculation about whether it will be packing the in-development Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR 2 Gen 2 chip or the same XR 2 chip from the previous model. It’s a strong contender to be the headset that sets the new standard for value.
ByteDance was another early offering in the hardware market. The PICO 4 virtual reality headset was released mid-October last year and features 4K+ resolution, a weight of 295g, and is available in Europe and East Asia for €399 (around $428).
Arguably one of the lesser-known devices and studios, this is ByteDance’s offering as a viable competitor to Meta, specifically the Quest 2. While it packs a punch, it also has some limitations, such as low-resolution passthrough, Meta might be about to blow it out of the water. With the Quest 3 on the horizon, a lot of consumers are holding off on the PICO 4 at the moment.
HTC is about to release its offering in the form of the VIVE XR Elite with a release date of February 25 and an entry-level price of $1,099. With it being the most decorated VR headset at CES 2023, expect them to go toe-to-toe with Meta for dominance in the market.
On paper, they are fairly evenly matched and it could come down to pure user experience and well-designed software. HTC is doubling down on VR glasses for smaller experiences like in-car journey entertainment and movie watching through the VIVE Flow.
It is possible that these developments and improvements in hardware will converge into smaller wearable devices that are suited more for passthrough or passive experiences but can also be worn for work too, like the high-end VIVE XR Elite and Meta Quest Pro.
Sony is also bringing out the PSVR2, which is said to use eye tracking for menu selection and navigation of user interfaces. With the PSVR2 and Apple VR, both are moving away from controller-oriented inputs which could bring a layer of accessibility to VR.
How often have we shown a friend or family VR and had to explain to them where the buttons are on the controllers for the first time? If headsets move towards using eye-tracking selection and hand tracking, controllers could become optional for devices like these, which could also bring down the hardware price for consumers and help drive adoption through the reduction of learning curves.
Why We Need to Get It Right
The Metaverse remains at this point a vision for the future and will do so until an extensive commercial breakthrough is made. The metaverse is entirely dependent on engagement and interconnectivity. There is a harsh expectation of constant usage and whilst some would argue that our lives are already technologically dependent, the level of integration into our lives that we’re talking about is unprecedented.
Accessibility also remains a firm stumbling block as technology will take some time to offer true value to people and not act as a luxurious gimmick. This is likely to remain the case in the near future. We do need to evaluate moving forward which hardware ultimately works for users and developers alike. But for now, we are testing what’s possible and creatively, it is a great time to be involved.