At the outset, it will be able to run 400 apps for the Meta Quest 2 headset, which is $400 and up and is aimed at consumers and gamers. But the new device will deliver some very high-end experiences that you would expect with its expensive price tag.
I got to try the device hands-on at Meta’s headquarters for about an hour and I tried out six different applications. Those apps make use of the wireless VR, color passthrough mixed reality technology, and extra-sharp LCD displays, and the ability to track your eyes, hands, and facial expressions.
Meta said that originally, the vast majority of time spent in VR was alone. Today, it’s a social experience.
Anand Dass, director of metaverse content applications at Meta, said in a press briefing that the apps take advantage of a new technology related to the full-color passthrough sensors that can detect the world in greater detail. It can map a room and figure out where a table is accurately with “scene understanding.”
Once a headset knows where something is in the real world in front of you, it can then place virtual objects in the room accurately, like putting a map from Wooorld below on top of a real table. If you share a space with friends, you can also get a sense of social presence, knowing the gestures and facial expressions of your friends as they make movements in real life. The apps were fun. I could throw darts, play Jenga with my fingers in VR, and more.
The first app I tried out was Wooorld, an app that lets you explore anywhere on the planet. You can join your friends in virtual reality and visit hundreds of cities with a viewpoint in VR that feels like a 3D version of Google Street View.
The app has architectural landmarks, natural wonders, and vacation spots in pretty incredible 3D detail. You can zoom in or zoom out and it will load procedurally, with details popping in. But as it finalizes the view, your 3D experience is pretty sharp.
I visit the Coliseum in Rome and saw a 3D still image of the place from different points of view. It was pretty cool to see, but maneuvering and finding places could be easier than following the Street View style of navigation.
You can engage in voice chat using 3D avatars with face and body tracking. You can play geographic trivia games and use creative tools. The first minigame, “Where in the Wooorld” teleports you to five random locations. You can look closely at the landscape, the flora, the architecture, and the road signs for clues and try to guess where you are. The closer you guess, the higher you’ll score. I did so so as I didn’t realize I could zoom in on the map and make a more precise guess.
You can see the 3D topography of the whole earth, and more detailed cities are coming. Wooorld Inc. developed the app for both the Meta Quest 2 and the Meta Quest Pro. It debuts on October 25 for $15.
Figmin XR is a multi-purpose application for creators. You can create, collect, and play in augmented reality. It uses the open-source Tilt Brush software that lets you draw in VR and create 3D art. But it also builds on that with other kinds of art apps. You can paint on an easel, decorate a room, create physics games, and educational experiences. You can record videos for social media, storytelling, art, marketing, or visualization.
You can use the built-in tools to sketch in 3D, search and import 3D models, animated GIFs and videos provided by Sketchfab, Giphy and YouTube. I got to try it out for five minutes or so, but you can bet you will be able to spend a lot of time in this app if you’re a creator. But you don’t have to be either tech savvy or an artist to have fun with this kind of app.
You can also browse Reddit and view multimedia content in AR. You can build 2D and 3D models with a voxel editor. It comes out on launch day for $20 and was developed by Overlay.
Meta Horizon Workrooms
This was the one app that crashed on me. So I didn’t get as much time in what Meta would probably consider to be its flagship enterprise app.
Built for both Quest 2 and Meta Quest Pro, it enables people to work in VR. It is available in 22 countries and is free to use for anyone with a headset.
Workrooms is the virtual reality space for teams to connect, collaborate and develop ideas together. It is intended for any work team – comprised of remote or hybrid workers –who wish to collaborate better with their colleagues and increase overall productivity.
To use Workrooms, you can simply create a Meta account with an email address of your choice to log in to your headset. Yes, you no longer have to use a Facebook account with your real identity.
“What if you could collaborate with colleagues as if you were right there at work?” Zuckerberg said.
With Meta Quest Pro’s inward-facing sensors, avatars now have more natural facial expressions, giving Workrooms meetings an even greater sense of presence. If someone laughs (and they have their privacy setting to allow facial expressions), you will see the avatar laugh. No longer do you have to find some way to tell the other person that you found something to be funny. That’s due to the fact that the headset has 10 sensors, both looking outward and inward.
It has a full-color passthrough so you can move seamlessly between your virtual and physical office thanks to high-definition cameras that show you your physical space in full color while wearing a Quest Pro headset. So you can pick up a stylus and use it inside VR. The mixed reality is better for multitasking.
The new Meta Quest Touch Pro controllers have a stylus tip, so when you turn them upside down they make writing and sketching on a virtual whiteboard easy. It has spatial audio so you can see who is talking to you, or who is being loud nearby. I did think it was pretty cool that I could actually read things in VR without straining my eyeballs.
This is possible because the “pancake optics” layers provide 75% more contrast than Meta Quest 2. Theseoptics also enabled Meta to slim down the headset’s optical stack by 40% compared to Quest 2, meaning you’ll notice less bulk in the front of the headset when you’re wearing it so you can focus on getting things done. For me, that meant I could wear my glasses while playing.
You can go into different kinds of offices and hold meetings. I was able to pick up a sticky note and move it to a table. You can also use it to create up to three larger-than-life screens in your virtual office, then customize the environment to suit your mood, on the Quest Pro. I can’t say why this is better than meeting in real life, but it’s meant for those times when someone has to attend remotely. It supports 16 people in VR and up to 50 people on a call.
On stage at Meta Connect, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was joined by Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella, and they shared their plans to accelerate the future of work. Microsoft is adapting Teams, Windows 365, Office apps, and more for the Meta Quest Pro. Zuckerberg also talked about partnerships with Accenture CEO Julie Sweet, Adobe, Autodesk, and more.
You can import 3D models into a workroom. Next year, you can join Workroom via Zoom. And you can join breakout rooms with groups of people easily.
Painting in virtual reality is pretty easy with this app. You can mix your colors, dip in your brush and start painting. You can paint on a virtual easel using the stylus in the new controllers.
You can paint in the air around you, or you can write on a piece of virtual paper that is sitting on top of a real table. The stylus felt pretty good in my hands as I was doing this. It was pretty cool to mix different colors of paint together and smear them on the canvas, creating new colors. I tried to smear a smile on the face of the Mona Lisa, but it didn’t work so well. So I was able to easily erase the damage.
You can drop brushes on the floor and pick them up with a pinching motion with your fingers.
It was developed by Oisoi Studio in Belgium, and it will cost $20. It took them 20 months to create it.
Tribe XR | DJ in VR
This app lets you become a virtual DJ in VR. You can learn how to play on nightclub-standard Pioneer DJ equipment — without having to own it in real life.
You can take lessons from DJ instructors, join Masterclasses, and mix back-to-back with DJs around the world. In my five-minute lesson, I learned a few things but I definitely had no idea what I was doing.
It has authentic Pioneer DJ equipment including CDJ-3000 decks and the DJM-900 NXS2 mixer. You can set the virtual equipment on top of a real table and then play around with the switches and knobs using your fingers or controllers. You can also play a Guitar Hero-style game in game mode. It costs $30 and is available now.
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