Numerama was able to preview three mixed reality experiences that will soon be available on the Meta Quest Pro headset. A good way to measure the true potential of this technology, unfairly summed up in the “metaverse”.
Metaverse, metaverse and metaverse… Since facebook name change at the end of 2021, everyone has only this word in their mouths. Unfortunately, the latter is rarely used well. As a report commissioned by the French government proved in late October, the term “metaverse” actually encompasses a lot of immersive technology and has little to do with the Ready Player One virtual world concept sold by several brands. The consequence of this misunderstanding: few people are interested in the emergence of mixed reality or augmented reality, which are nevertheless technologies with much higher potential.
On October 11, Meta unveiled the Quest Pro, the first mixed reality headset (there were others before it, like the one produced from the French start-up Lynx). At 1,799 euros, the Quest Pro is not a consumer product. Its mission is to lay the foundations for future experiences in mixed/augmented reality while waiting for the real opening of this market (preferably with glasses, even if possible arrival of Apple in 2023 can speed things up). How much is Quest Pro worth? Numerama has not yet tested it enough to give you a definitive opinion. However, in 1 hour with the headset, we can already say that mixed reality opens up much more possibilities than virtual reality.
3 experiences, 1 hour
On October 21, I traveled to London at Meta’s invitation. After several days of lobbying to get the headset for testing and to be able to speak with company officials, Mark Zuckerberg’s group offered me to come and try their product during a private one-hour session at his premises. Apparently worried that the media won’t understand how to use Quest Pro, Meta wants to frame everything for now. This may seem surprising, but we have to admit that Meta, who has decided to bet her future on the “metaverse”, plays a lot with her Quest Pro. So I decided to play the game while I waited to be able to test the helmet for longer, like Quest 2 a few months ago that allowed us to discover some issues in “metaverse” apps.
This discovery session was divided into three parts. First, I was able to interview a representative of Meta, present in the United States of America, in a virtual conference room, with a projection of computer screens in front of me. Next, I met the developers of a sort of virtual/mixed reality version of GeoGuessr. But it is the third experience that I decided to tell you about here: that of a distance blending course.
Mixed reality makes virtual reality tolerable
First of all, I think it’s important to start with a reminder of the difference between virtual reality and mixed reality. At first glance, it is exactly the same. Two screens are placed in front of the eyes and synchronize their alignment to replicate a normal 3D view. A VR/MR helmet is not transparent like glasses, it is a real immersion machine.
However, mixed reality is different. Thanks to cameras located around the helmet, we see the real world when we wear the car (Meta calls it “color transition”). Where virtual reality completely isolates, mixed reality allows you to continue to see your environment, the people around you, and any objects you want to touch during the experience (such as documents or a computer). Of course, virtual elements can also be added to reality. For example, you can hang fake screens on your real wall or manipulate an interface directly from the palm of your hand. As part of a game, such as table tennis, one can imagine a table appearing in the middle of the living room.
If the uses are still very limited, I really enjoyed this first experience in mixed reality. I don’t think I’m capable of wearing a VR headset for hours at a time, but the Quest Pro didn’t cause me any dizziness (it’s also more comfortable to wear, since it doesn’t touch my hair). Seeing the people around me and not being afraid to hit a wall changes everything.
Mixed reality, if not completely invisible (we can still see the pixels), makes virtual reality much less restrictive. It is already a first victory.
A distance blending course? The potential is huge
It is therefore in mixed reality that the Trybe XR app works. Its basic idea is simple: a mixer is expensive, even very expensive (several thousand euros for the virtual model I tried). Many people dream of being a DJ, but have to settle for more affordable versions with fewer options. Otherwise, they have to take face-to-face lessons, which forces them to have time and find a teacher in their area (certainly easy in Paris, less so in the region).
At Trybe XR, I had the opportunity to do a distance course with a teacher who was also equipped with a Quest Pro. A virtual mixer appeared in front of me (it can appear on the table or in a vacuum) and the teacher, in New York in real life but in front of me in mixed reality, explained to me what I HAD TO DO. When he told me about a button, it was circled in color.
In 20 minutes, I had the opportunity to learn the basics of mixing, using the controllers as hands (even if it would technically be possible to use your real hands, but without the impression of touching or input). A selfie stick allowed me to point things out exactly when I didn’t know what to do.
I really enjoyed this experience. This proves that mixed reality, in the field of education, is definitely much more interesting than virtual reality. By avoiding user limitation, Quest Pro makes discovering things fun. The DJ on the other side of the Atlantic gave me another example of the potential of this technology: that of organizing a virtual festival in a video game, for example. I’m less convinced, but why not? However, I imagine there are plenty of other expensive activities that could be taught in mixed reality, with a real remote teacher. Table tennis, piano, changing an electrical outlet, cooking… The mix of the real and the virtual offers interesting possibilities, unlike the metaverse. Now I can’t wait to test Quest Pro at home!