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The Glen Echo

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Meta releases new virtual reality device

Meta has been under significant financial stress lately. Having laid off over 21,000 workers since last year, the company is struggling to quell investor concerns about the long-term viability of its products. Meta’s answer to these concerns: The Quest 3 virtual reality headset, promising a better user experience and more versatility, even if there isn’t much content for it.

On Oct. 10, 2023, Meta released the Meta Quest 3. For $499.99, the device is effectively a total redesign of the visual components of the headset. The Quest 3 uses newer, more compact “pancake” lenses instead of larger, bulkier “fresnel” lenses, while also increasing the resolution and field-of-view, which makes the headset’s visuals look sharper and cover more of your range of vision. Meta boasts that the Quest 3 is 40% slimmer than its predecessor, which was immediately noticeable before I even opened the smaller box it arrived in.

Using Quest 3, all of the changes Meta boasts about are easily apparent, even if the reasons to use it seem lacking. The visuals are sharper and better than ever before. The Quest 3 lets you create your own virtual avatar, and I think Meta did a pretty good job with inclusivity since I was able to create an avatar with a cochlear implant. The device also includes hand tracking, which felt more responsive and naturalistic than having to hold controllers, although most experiences do not support hand tracking. There are cameras mounted on the outside of the Quest 3 which let you see a somewhat grainy full-color feed of the outside world. The cameras also scan your surroundings to warn you when you’re getting too close to a wall.

My first experience using the device was in the game Population: One, whose publisher was acquired by Meta a few years ago.

When loading into the first match, I felt as though I was really in the game, as though the things I was seeing were really in front of me. My teammate, a middle-aged single father who made me stop playing, was still using the Quest 2. The ease with which I was able to speak with complete strangers without ever needing to verify my age worries me because currently, the Quest platform feels like it’s used mostly by children.

The Quest 3’s head strap is very uncomfortable. Meta sells a better headstrap for $70. I find it very hard to believe that Meta, a company that spent almost $35 billion in R&D (Research and Development) last year is incapable of designing a cheap, comfortable headstrap. The headset package includes a glasses spacer for those with visual impairments, but there’s nothing that makes the strap comfortable to wear with a cochlear implant. Meta has proven that they can accommodate some differences in ability, and, judging by their avatar customization, they are aware of the hard-of-hearing Quest users. So, why does the Quest 3 squeeze my cochlear implant processor into my head?

There is a very terrifying and anticlimactic feeling when you take off a virtual reality headset and realize that for a few minutes, your senses in their entirety showed you something that simply was not real. The way that you perceive things and the way your senses process your environment is completely different in VR. Taking a headset off can feel like going into shock as your body rapidly tries to adjust to the sudden change in perception. While I’m in VR, I’m having the time of my life, but I dread the moment when I have to take the headset off. The Quest 3’s improved visuals only make that moment all the more jarring.

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Uri Bashan, Staff Writer

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