It's easy to think Facebook doesn't care that much about high-end PC VR headsets. After all, the company just unceremoniously killed off its Rift S headset, leaving the standalone Quest 2 as its only current VR product. With the addition of Air Link, which lets Quest 2 owners wirelessly stream VR from gaming PCs, there doesn't appear to be an immediate need for a true Oculus PC headset. But it turns out, the company is actually working on a more powerful VR headset, the Quest Pro, according to Facebook VP Andrew Bosworth and consulting Technical Officer John Carmack.
Now, in an interview with CNET's Scott Stein, Mark Zuckerberg is offering his thoughts on what a Quest Pro could actually be. "This [Quest Pro] is certainly something that we're working on," he said. "Basically, having a higher-end virtual reality experience." Zuckerberg explains you'd typically offer that by connecting a headset to a PC, but now he believes doing so is too big a compromise for the overall VR experience. So that's why the company is aiming for a Quest Pro, rather than a wired "Rift Pro." The company's Air Link technology proved they could make wireless VR work on a consumer-grade headset, so it doesn't seem a huge leap if Facebook wanted to make that even more viable for professional users.
Zuckerberg goes on to point out there are other elements that could go into a Quest Pro, including additional sensors and capabilities that could make it useful for activities beyond gaming. That could mean built-in eye and face tracking technology, which the company has been discussing for years. With eye tracking, the Quest Pro could tell your computer the exact object you're looking at, which could focus graphical rendering and enable new VR interactions. When I tested out Tobii's eye tracking technology a few years ago, it gave me an almost telepathic ability to hit far off targets in the distance.
Face tracking, meanwhile, could seriously improve virtual chat apps by directly capturing our mouth movements. It's like the difference between chatting with a character animated by Pixar, versus one that looks like it came from the PlayStation 2. That's something HTC Vive is also exploring with its new Facial Tracker accessory. Additionally, Facebook just recently showed off wrist-worn AR devices, which could conceivably bring a whole new set of sensors into your VR experience.
When you consider how successful HTC Vive has been with its Pro devices, it's also not that hard to imagine Facebook wanting to target higher-end users and enterprise markets. The Quest 2 is already a wildly successful consumer device, but there are plenty of folks out there willing to pay a lot more for vastly more capable hardware. Just don't expect a Quest Pro anytime soon.
"From my perspective, it's filling out the initial vision and hope that we had for VR about how there are going to be all these different use cases," Zuckerberg said. "It's amazing for gaming, but it's not only for gaming. Part of the question is if you were focused on building a higher-end device that could really max out further on some of those other use cases, in addition to doing the gaming pieces, there are some interesting questions about how you design."