Unveiling High-Tech Marvels: The Quest Pro Debacle and Beyond

Where mix-reality (MR) and virtual reality (VR) meet, one device has us questioning the future of a world that’s ever more digital but also teetering on the edge of what makes sense to expect from mass adoption. Here’s how the Quest Pro, and Meta’s ex-CTO’s pessimistic assessment of it, raise a question that might determine how we’ll live and work for a long time to come. You might call this part two of the ‘quest’ – part one being the one we’re already living through. Which is to say, the development of the Quest Pro as a device deliberately designed to succeed on our human-scale horizon, thanks to its radical new user interface, the ‘controllers-free’ hands-free system. But its very creation has shown us an entirely different world if we dare follow it all the way to its end. This is a story of ambition and realism, of forward motion and retracing steps in pushing the envelope of cutting-edge tech. Let’s get real.

The Quest PRO: A Bold Step or a Misstep?

At the centre of the dispute is the Quest Pro – a device that shows the best changes to MR that workplace applications might start to see. Its prototype wasn’t even introduced by Carmark, but by a guy who said: ‘I admit it. I resent it.’ John Carmark. Courtesy Carmark.The central question Carmark raises is the same one that underlies most of Branigan’s arguments: aren’t we taking our eyes off the prize here? Aren’t we so focused on the latest hi-tech – MR, a vision headset, high-end graphical capabilities – that we’re forgetting about the low-tech that brings us closer to having ‘VR for thee’?

The PRO Device vs. Its Counterparts

While the Quest Pro and the Quest 3 MR headset herald a future in which immersive, hands-on virtual reality is accessible to everyone and not just gamers creating make-believe worlds, the Quest Pro’s lukewarm response in the enterprise space to date could be Zuckerberg’s high-stakes gambit that didn’t quite pay off. The device’s impressive specs and future use cases are luminous. But adoption rates tell a different story.

Carmack's Vision: Simplicity and Mass Market Focus

Carmack’s critique highlights important tensions: prioritising cutting-edge pro-level devices over mass-market VR solutions; equally, the suggestion that much of that work could have gone into other products with wider appeal. It’s a vital reminder of the divide between novelty and practical value. Compared with Sony’s PSVR 2, Meta’s positioning has also been emphasised. They might be at the head of the VR gaming game, but carving out a niche for Quest Pro seemingly came at the expense of a wider audience.

The Horizon OS Paradigm Shift

Meta Horizon OS is meant to democratise development, giving third-party partners a chance to build apps for Meta’s XR products and potentially fill the Quest ecosystem with greater software diversity. ‘This all points in the right direction,’ Carmack told me. ‘It’s a long game, and a good way for them to make the VR universe big enough.’ It would be a way to open up the VR ecosystem to more variety of ideas, in a functional manner akin to a Play Store or an Android.

Potential and Challenges of Open Development

An open OS might indeed inspire plenty of innovation. Smaller, speciality applications might thrive, and VR could become useful for a much wider range of purposes. At the same time, Carmack says, the open door comes with its own complications. It might not be easy, for example, to ensure that everything partners wanted to integrate works seamlessly. It is also important to make sure that the bar for what gets in is high enough. Walking the line between opening the gates and preserving standards is challenging, and it’s one of many aspects of Meta’s ambition to expand communicative horizons while still meeting the company’s own core requirements.

Future Prospects: The Quest PRO's Evolution

With Connect 2024 just ahead, as Meta prepares announcements there to update existing headsets and expand Quest’s educational market membership, the fate of the Quest Pro and its pro siblings remains to be seen. Will Meta’s manoeuvres take advantage of the growing market, or will the Quest Pro represent the downfall of XR as a business – a cautionary tale of technology overtake, in which the market price tags run ahead of the market’s ability to pay? Much may hang in the balance with those future answers. But that’s a story for another day.

Decoding the PRO in Quest Pro

At its centre, the Quest Pro represents a fork in the road in VR development: the trade-off between pushing the boundaries and going mainstream. John Carmack’s words show that, in the pursuit of technological glory, pragmatism should not be forgotten. The device’s story tells us important lessons about balancing ambition and pragmatism – a balancing act that will continue to shape the future of virtual reality for years to come.

But using pro devices like the Quest Pro invites us to think about what innovation means when it comes to the products we develop, the things we create, and how we all start using them. Most of us aren’t building the next Quest Pro. It’s up to developers, creators and users to question what an inclusive version of this future might like. The future of technology’s frontier might be less about the devices and more about the experiences they provide to everyone.

Jun 11, 2024
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