Meta Connect: Event Recap and Analysis

September 27, 2023 / Ben Bajarin

Meta held their annual Connect conference Wednesday and at the event doubled down on their initiative to democratize specific technology experiences like VR, AR, and AI. They stated their primary goal and driving motivation to innovate is to improve each years technology platforms and offer them at more mainstream price points.  Below is what we found significant and and overview of the key announcements.

What’s Significant

Oculus Quest 3 looks to be a significant improvement over Quest 2, primarily in the way of mixed reality. Which we view as a positive for the category given we believe mixed reality, or spatial computing in Apple’s vernacular, has much more potential for widespread consumer appeal. We are curious to see how Meta’s developers start to take advantage of mixed reality and the ways that increase the overall usage of the headset.

The Quest 3 is another good win for Qualcomm’s XR platform, affirming again Qualcomm’s XR solution is the only game in town for any brand/vendor looking to compete with Apple. Ultimately, we would love to see another brand like Samsung or Sony enter the market with a mixed reality headset to compete with Meta so there is more diversity in the marketplace as Apple gears up to scale Apple Vision Pro over the coming years.

AI avatars look attractive, and it is particularly important that Meta recognizes the need to bring AI to market responsibly and note the work they are doing to put safety and guardrails around these experiences. Ultimately, generative AI social bots are a brand-new experience for consumers, and how they are implemented will set the stage for broader adoption going forward. We are unsure how consumers will react to these AI profiles, nor if they truly desire them on their social platforms. However, this is another example of Meta wanting to bring these solutions/innovations far and wide to as many people as possible.

Meta’s relationship with Ray-Ban continues with the second-generation smart glasses. While we do not expect these to sell well, the most important takeaway is the learning by shipping between Meta and Ray-Ban as they work to miniaturize key components that will one day serve as the basis of augmented reality glasses. Gen 2 looks quite a bit more interesting than Gen 1 in terms of capabilities but this remains a tough sell in our view.

What Was Announced

Oculus 3

  • The starting price for Meta Quest 3 is $499.99 USD for the 128GB version and $649.99 USD for the 512GB version.
  • Meta Quest 3 features mixed reality, allowing a spectrum of experiences.
  • It includes high-fidelity Passthrough with over 10 times more pixels compared to Meta Quest 2, keeping the physical surroundings in sight.
  • Users can seamlessly transition between fully immersive experiences and a blended environment by double-tapping the side of the headset.
  • Meta Quest 3 is powered by the Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 platform, offering double the graphics processing power of Quest 2.
  • It has a 4K+ Infinite Display, achieving a nearly 30% leap in resolution compared to Meta Quest 2.
    The slim profile of Quest 3 is 40% slimmer than Quest 2, without compromising visual immersion.
  • Quest 3 offers a more customizable fit and balanced weight distribution, enhancing comfort.
    Spatial audio on Quest 3 provides enhanced sound clarity and bass performance, with a 40% louder audio range than Quest 2.

The Meta Quest 3 represents a significant upgrade in display quality and visual immersion compared to its predecessor, the Quest 2. With a 4K+ display and resolution improved by nearly 30%, the Quest 3 will offer much more detailed and crisp visuals.

Performance is also getting a major boost with the Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 platform providing double the graphics processing power of the Quest 2. This leap in processing capability opens the door for more advanced real-time rendering techniques and complex VR environments full of visual detail. The kinds of experiences that were previously only possible on high-end PC VR headsets are now feasible on the untethered Quest 3.

A new capability of the Quest 3 is high fidelity passthrough mixed reality that blends physical surroundings with virtual objects. The passthrough cameras have 10x more pixels than the Quest 2, allowing a seamless transition between real and virtual worlds. This technology paves the way for innovative hybrid real-world/VR applications known as Mixed Reality.

Finally, ergonomic improvements like a slimmer profile, balanced weight distribution, and integrated spatial audio will together make for more immersion and comfort. The Quest 3 shapes up to be Meta’s most advanced and well-rounded VR (Mixed Reality) to date.

Social AI Profiles

  • New AI experiences were introduced during the Connect event
  • Users can interact with 28 AIs with unique interests and personalities
  • AIs can be interacted with via messaging platforms and social profiles on Facebook and Instagram
  • Social profiles feature public figures representing the AI characters
  • Visual content creation and profile management are handled by Meta
  • AI-generated images will be marked with #ImaginedWithAI and a watermark
  • Users in the beta product rollout in the U.S. can message AIs through their social profiles on Instagram or Messenger
  • AIs’ responses are generated by Meta’s AI technology
  • A list of AI social profiles can be followed on Facebook and Instagram

The introduction of 28 AIs with unique interests and personalities provides users with more personalized and interactive experiences. Being able to directly interact with these AIs through messaging platforms and social profiles adds a new dimension to how people engage with AI-powered systems. Additionally, the use of recognized public figures to represent the AI characters in their social profiles adds a familiar touch. The management of visual content and the inclusion of watermarks and hashtags also showcase the effort to ensure transparency and accountability in the generation of AI-generated images. Overall, these developments demonstrate the evolving capabilities of AI and how it is being applied to enhance user experiences and engagement. Whether or not consumers want these experiences engrained into their social platforms is another question.

Next Generation Ray-Ban Smart Glasses

  • Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses launching in partnership with EssilorLuxottica, available for pre-order now starting at $299
  • Redesigned from the ground up based on user feedback to improve core features like audio, camera, comfort, etc.
  • New features like live streaming, Meta AI assistant, improved speakers, 12MP camera, faster computing, smaller charging case.
  • Meta AI is an advanced conversational assistant optimized for hands-free use. Can access by saying “Hey Meta” to get information, spark creativity, and control features by voice.
  • Multiple style options including new transparent colorways and prescription lens compatibility
  • Hands-free convenience for capturing photos/videos, listening to audio, and accessing Meta AI assistant by voice

This is the first major redesign and upgrade to Meta’s smart glasses product since its initial launch.

Based on user feedback, Meta has completely redesigned the Ray-Ban Meta glasses to address key areas of improvement like audio quality, camera capabilities, comfort and usability. New features have also been added that are firsts for smart glasses, including live streaming and a voice-activated AI assistant. The Meta AI assistant is optimized specifically for hands-free use enabled by the glasses form factor.

By partnering with Ray-Ban brand, Meta is making smart glasses more fashionable and accessible to mainstream consumers. With a starting price of $299, and some of the technological improvements, it will be intersesting to see if the second generation of Ray-Ban smart glasses does better than the first. However,  this launch demonstrates Meta’s continued investment in developing consumer AR products and experiences.



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