Software Development
AR / Gaming / VR

A Technical.ly first impression of the Meta Quest 3

Is the Quest 3 worth it? Check out reporter Holly Quinn's inaugural session.

The reporter's avatar in "Horizon Worlds." (Technical.ly/Holly Quinn)
The Meta Quest 3 is out, and everyone who picked one up has thoughts.

I happen to be one of those people. As a regular user of the Quest 2, I was drawn in by the promise of a lighter unit with a sharper picture, full-color passthrough and wider field of vision.

Since unboxing the Quest 3, I’ve used it in the ways I usually do: with the fitness app VZFit, playing pinball, watching 360 content and exploring Horizon Worlds. I’ve also played with its AR capabilities with a demo called First Encounters. Here’s what I thought:

Setup

Setting the Quest 3 up with the account I use with my Quest 2 was ridiculously easy, basically involving just connecting the headset to Wi-Fi and entering a code into the Quest app.

Once you’re signed in, the first thing you see is a big screen floating in your physical room. The passthrough — seeing the room around you through the headset — is far from crystal clear, but it’s miles better and more functional than the grainy black-and-white passthrough of the Quest 2. On the screen, a short demo shows you how to adjust the head strap and lenses (the lens adjustment is a big improvement) and other setup tasks before settling you in with your home screen — which, if you’re coming from the Quest 2, is the same screen loaded with all of your apps. You will have to download your apps to the Quest 3; be sure to plug it in during this process.

With the new passthrough, you can use your literal home as your Quest home (the place you are when you’re not in a game or app). I like the cyber city pad, so I went into settings and changed the environment, eventually landing on a new environment called Terrace that looks kind of like the jump screen in Horizon Worlds, a sort of eclectic, whimsical cityscape. It’s more interactive than most environments, and you can explore further.

Vision

The picture is brighter, with blacker blacks, in the Q3. In a high-definition environment, it looks great, though there are occasional visual glitches. For a lot of content like YouTube 360 videos, the picture is going to be the same quality it’s always been, and that might look significantly lower-quality next to a high-definition game or Worlds. That was an issue with the Q2, to be fair, but it’s even more noticeable.

As for the field of vision, it’s wider, but you’ll still see the edges. When you’re immersed, you shouldn’t notice it, the same way you don’t notice the TV stand when you’re immersed in a TV show.

Hand tracking

Hand tracking — interacting with environments with your hands rather than controllers — has always been kind of a challenge for me, and I usually used controllers with the Meta Quest (MQ) 2. I noticed quickly that hand tracking was easier with the MQ3. I found myself using it without thinking about it and picking up gestures to take photos and videos without having to press the camera icon.

Another cool gesture is that a double tap on the side of the headset switches you from immersive view to passthrough.

Fitness

I use the Quest every day with an exercise bike and EZFit. EZFit incorporates Google Earth, and users can create bike routes through any part of the world it has mapped. Though it improves with every upgrade, it’s decidedly not high-definition, and there is a certain amount of distortion, things users get used to, because the immersiveness is great. The Q3 headset can’t improve the quality of Google Earth routes, but the upgraded visuals do seem to make it more vibrant.

What I like about the Q3 for fitness is that it’s noticeably lighter and less bulky than the Q2. Honestly, when I unboxed the Q3, it didn’t seem lighter, but after using it for a while, I felt the difference.

Gaming

I’m a pretty low-key VR gamer — I play pinball, mini golf, “Angry Birds” or an occasional narrative game like “Down the Rabbit Hole.” I don’t do PCVR or action games or shooters. That said, “Star Wars Pinball VR” looks great on the Q3: very vivid and realistic to the point where I was noticing new things on tables I’ve played countless times.

Horizon Worlds

Worlds has been rapidly evolving over the last couple of years. I hopped into the Plaza and picked up some expression and navigation tips. The worlds are buzzing, and will likely be more busy with the Q3 release. Games like “Super Rumble,” which can also be played on mobile, have changed the app a lot in terms of user participation.

The experience itself is pretty much the same as with Q2, only a bit more vibrant and lighter — the latter being especially good if you like to hang out with friends in VR (whether Worlds, VRChat or another social app).

First Encounters

OK, this is cool and different from anything I experienced with the Q2. First Encounters is more of a demo than a game that shows you how to do a room scan for interactive AR before turning your room into an immersive game. First, a hole opens up in your ceiling and a tiny ship lands on the floor (or in my case, on my cat). You pick up a zip gun that X-rays your walls, showing an otherworldly place outside. Within a minute, small fluffy alien balls break holes in your walls and you capture them with the zip gun. As far as a game, it’s not much, but the room transformation is pretty awesome. It’s not meant to be a game you play often, though you can, it’s there to give you a taste of AR in a VR headset and leave you wanting to buy some AR games.

Overall

Is the Quest 3 mindblowing? If I hadn’t come from Quest 2, it would be. The upgrades are subtle but noticeable, yet the experience is the same. The AR was the most exciting part of my inaugural experience, though I’m not sure if I’ll change the way I use the headset to include a lot of AR.

I have no regrets. If you’re thinking about buying a headset, I’d recommend it, whether you’re new to VR/AR or are looking to upgrade the Quest 2.

Companies: Meta

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