Meta, Apple, and Lenovo to Bring New Mixed Reality Devices to Market
The trio of Meta, Apple, and Lenovo are advancing immersive technology by producing new mixed-reality headsets.
Mixed reality (MR) is one component of immersive technology that enables interactions between the physical and digital worlds. It combines both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to create interactions between humans and computers in a virtual environment.
While MR technology is still in its infancy, developers are improving user experience and the overall performance of MR devices. Meta, one of the leading innovators in this space, recently announced the Meta Quest Pro's shipping date of Oct. 25.
The Meta Quest Pro. Image used courtesy of Meta
This article looks at the challenges of MR design and how companies are overcoming these obstacles to produce new products.
Meta’s Quest Pro Generates Full-color Mixed Reality
Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2+ platform, the new Meta Quest Pro is a mixed-reality headset that showcases new improvements over Meta Quest 2.
The device features 10 high-resolution sensors that facilitate better immersive experiences, according to Meta. Thanks to the high-res outward-facing cameras that capture 4x the pixels as Meta Quest 2’s external cameras, the new Meta Quest Pro enables a high-definition, full-color MR experience.
With the new Meta Quest Pro, users can observe the world in 3D via a stereoscopic MR "Passthrough." While Passthrough allows Meta Quest 2 users to see the physical environment in black, Meta Quest Pro users can view the world outside in full color.
Furthermore, the new Meta Quest Pro is designed to run VR applications with improved thermal efficiency and operates at 50% more power than the previous Meta Quest 2. The two LCDs of the device employ local dimming and quantum dot technology to provide richer and more vivid colors. Thanks to the local dimming technology, the LCDs have 75% more contrast than the previous Meta Quest 2.
The Meta Quest Pro self-tracking controllers. Image used courtesy of Meta
Additional improvements in Meta Quest Pro’s optics include a 25% improvement in full-field visual sharpness in the center view, a 50% improvement in the peripheral region, and a 1.3x larger color gamut than Meta Quest 2.
The device comes with self-tracking controllers with three built-in sensors that monitor the controller’s position in 3D space. The device also enables eye tracking and natural facial expressions in virtual spaces. The company says that the device enables users to showcase their authentic selves in the metaverse.
Apple to Introduce Next-gen MR Products
After acquiring multiple AR/VR companies and filing patents on AR/VR development, Apple is rumored to release a mixed reality headset in 2023. Apple has a dedicated team for this project and hopes to make its headset a game-changer in the immersive technology market.
Some insiders have revealed that the headset will feature two to three displays. The device will have two high-resolution 4K micro OLED displays with up to 3,000 pixels per inch. To achieve a sleek and thin headset, Apple will make use of pancake lenses instead of the Fresnel lens technology that is used by other headsets.
The device is also expected to have a variety of cameras for body tracking and environmental detection. The device is also said to incorporate iris scanning for logins and payments. Iris scanning is synonymous with Face ID and Touch ID on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
The device is rumored to operate on two Mac-level M2 processors. It will feature a high-end main processor and a lower-end processor. It is also reported that a new operating system, realityOS, will run on the MR headset.
Lenovo Launches ThinkReality VRX
Lenovo has introduced a new all-in-one virtual reality headset, ThinkReality VRX, that employs Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Spaces XR Developer Platform. This development is a result of Lenovo and Qualcomm's collaboration to spur innovation in MR.
The ThinkReality VRX headset. Image used courtesy of Lenovo
The ThinkReality VRX features pancake optics and full-color, high-resolution passthrough capabilities. According to Lenovo, the built-in ThinkReality software platform empowers IT and operations to deploy, configure, and manage XR devices at scale. The device enables enterprise-grade security practices with a secure supply chain and manufacturing process that thoroughly vets every component and service supplier.
The device is compatible with six- or three-degrees-of-freedom content and operates as a standalone device or tethered to a PC or workstation for streaming experiences. It features four front-mounted cameras that provide 6DoF tracking and two full-color, high-resolution passthrough cameras to provide workers with a better, uninterrupted user experience as they perform tasks.
Vishal Shah, GM of XR and Metaverse at Lenovo, remarked that the VR solution is a good choice for training and collaborating in immersive 3D. The product will be available to select markets by early 2023.
Challenges in Mixed Reality Development
While immersive technology developers want to create incredible AR and VR experiences in gaming, marketing, e-learning, healthcare, and so on, they face some user challenges.
One major challenge in the mixed reality market is the high cost of these devices. 65% of respondents in a study on VR adoption said that cost was the reason they did not own a virtual reality headset. In addition, MR devices still face latency issues and, as such, may not be suitable for remote surgery in healthcare settings. Apart from the short battery life that MR devices have, a common problem that users experience when using VR headsets is motion sickness and discomfort when used for a long time.
Only when Meta Quest Pro, Apple's MR headset, and ThinkReality VRX hit the market will users be able to assess whether developers have addressed these common pain points.