Apple Vision Pro is already making the Meta Quest 3 better

Apple Vision Pro is already making the Meta Quest 3 better

You don’t need to own an Apple Vision Pro to appreciate it. Just having competition from the high end is pushing Meta to improve its mainstream mixed reality headset.

Meta Quest 3 hit the market last year for $499. That’s $3000 shy of Vision Pro, but with the same goal of colorized passthrough for mixed reality. The only problem was that Meta’s version of passthrough was hardly comparable to Apple’s. My own evaluation is that Meta Quest 3 passthrough is usable but not convincing.

That appears to be changing now. In a Quest software update called v64, Meta says that it has improved passthrough quality for the Meta Quest 3 headset. Here’s a summary from the release notes:

Passthrough is the fundamental mixed reality capability that allows users to comfortably view and interact with the physical world while wearing a headset. […]

Improved resolution

We have improved the perceived resolution for passthrough by optimizing the passthrough pipeline. This makes it easier for users to see finer details and read smaller text in the real world – such as notifications on a smartphone screen.

Improved image quality

We have fine tuned the camera processing pipeline to improve color, exposure, contrast and dynamic range in passthrough. This makes color passthrough better match the real world. We have also reduced graininess (aka image noise) in lower light conditions making for an overall more comfortable passthrough experience in a range of lighting conditions.

Unlike Apple’s visionOS software updates, Meta stages its Meta software updates so that a bad release doesn’t reach everyone on day one. For this reason, I haven’t experienced Meta’s improved version of passthrough yet.

However, Quest 3 users online have been praising it as a significant enhancement that takes inspiration from Apple Vision Pro.

The verdict seems to be that Meta has learned from the Apple approach and improved clarity. The cost of doing so, however, seems to be grainier visuals during motion. That tradeoff for more clarity when stationary and some distortion during motion seems like the right call for passthrough.

Headset competition ahead

What’s also clear is that Apple Vision Pro is actively pushing Meta to improve its headsets. While improved passthrough (and laying down mode) are the highlights of this month, Meta has openly discussed major OS overhauls to come that will be more visionOS-like when it comes to multitasking.

As long as Apple Vision Pro is priced in the money-is-no-object range, Meta should be comfortable with AVP being a benchmark in quality but not a competitor in the same slice of the market. However, a more affordable Apple Vision is almost inevitable. That’s what Meta has to race to compete against.

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