Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat down with CNET for an interview where he speaks about the company’s progress on its next generation of VR devices, namely what it might include in the ‘Oculus Quest Pro’ standalone headset.
Zuckerberg previously spoke about how Facebook is preparing a Quest 3 and 4, saying in March that teams are devoted to building those headsets and exploring things like improved optics, better compute performance, and creating smaller and lighter devices.
Now Zuckerberg confirms that not only is Facebook working on a Quest Pro, but that it could include sensors for both face and eye tracking. That’s a first for any Oculus device, although HTC has beaten them to the punch with its Vive Pro Eye and its more recent face tracker add-on.
The Facebook chief maintains both face and eye tracking will be fundamental pieces to reaching two important goals: a “sense of presence” and “social connection” through its VR devices, he says. There’s a few more reasons why eye tracking is a game changer for VR, although those are certain two of the biggest ones.
Zuckerberg spoke very generally about the headset, saying that, as the name would suggest, Quest Pro is planned to be a higher-end standalone. What isn’t clear is how much it will cost, and who the target market will be. He says it will necessarily be “a little more expensive” than the Quest 2’s $300 baseline price, however the hardware will be priced with some level of mass appeal still in mind.
“We’re not approaching this from the perspective of, how do we charge people as much money as possible and make profit on the devices?” he told CNET. “We want to get as many people as possible to be able to experience virtual reality and be able to jump into the metaverse and then be able to have these social experiences within that. Then that’s really where where our bread and butter as a company is in terms of building those experiences.”
Zuckerberg maintains some distance from directly promising any specific feature for Quest Pro—like face & eye tracking, or fitness sensor integration—however he mentions that increasing the amount of sensors will necessarily require more compute power.
“We’ve talked a bit about things like eye tracking and face tracking, and you’re talking now about things like different health sensors, whether that’s heart rate monitoring or the different other kinds of fitness sensors that you might have on a fitness watch. The basic thing that these all have in common is that each of them takes additional compute power to power the thing. And the whole device needs to be tuned for that. So if you want to basically have a device over time that is just capable of all these things and is running an increasing number of sensors, you need to kind of get to higher- and higher-end devices. And then the question for us is going to be, well, how do we innovate on what that’s going to look like and be able to deliver something that’s a high-end product?”
Just last month Facebook gave tens of thousands of employees Quest 2 for to keep fit from home. This may very well be another ‘dogfooding’ strategy from Facebook, whereby a company conducts broad internal beta testing before launching a device or service. Zuckerberg maintains that over the next five years, the company will be focusing on both the sensor-packed high-end as well as “devices that can be broadly available to everyone.”