It’s no secret that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is betting big on the metaverse.
The company poured $10 billion into its Reality Labs business last year to help flesh out Meta’s vision of a new kind of internet and the connections that can be made in this virtual space.
Much of this vision hinges on Meta’s $1,500 Quest Pro headset, which went on sale last month. The new virtual reality headset has some noted improvements over the mass consumer $400 Quest 2 headset model (which will remain on sale, though a Quest 3 is expected next year) — notably better sound and sensors. The Quest Pro can track your eyes and face, so your avatar can make the same faces that you do.
Meta is betting that businesses, not consumers, are going to be the first big market for the Pro headset. The new features are geared towards designers, engineers, and other professionals that often collaborate in person. To get a sense of just how useful the headsets can be in the workplace, two CNBC Technology Executive Council members agreed to try them ahead of the annual TEC Member Summit in New York City.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Meta Platforms Inc., demonstrates the Meta Quest Pro during the virtual Meta Connect event in New York, US, on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022.
Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Arun Kumar, chief data and technology officer at ad giant IPG, and Krishna Bhagavathula, chief technology officer for the NBA, “met” with Ash Jhaveri, vice president of partnerships at Meta’s Reality Labs. Each donned the Quest Pro headset separately, but on screen their avatars were sitting next to each other in a virtual conference room complete with windows and a giant blackboard.
The three men started the meeting by virtually high-fiving each other. Kumar marveled at how much better his avatar’s fingers looked than his own real-life digits (“It’s called a virtual manicure,” offered Jhaveri with a laugh.) Worried about not having time to comb your hair or wash your face before a meeting? “It really doesn’t matter” in the metaverse, Jhaveri said, because your avatar is always groomed and ready to go.
Kumar and Bhagavathula each tried writing on the virtual blackboard with the controllers included with the headset, a feature that Kumar especially liked. “The fact that you can collaborate together in one room is actually the reason why we still do conferences,” he said.
That sense of focus, said Jhaveri, is one of the strongest selling points for the enterprise user. “When everyone has a headset on they’re all fully present, they’re not tapping around on their phone or distracted so you’re getting a pure sense of presence because it’s nearly impossible to be distracted,” he said.
Both TEC members said they enjoyed Meta’s Quest Pro experience. “The first thought that hits you when you strap on the headset is that the experience is far more real than it is given credit for,” said Kumar in a follow-up interview with CNBC. “There has been progress in making the experience more intuitive and easier.” He especially liked the fact that the headset was comfortable, even with his glasses on.
At the TEC Member Summit, Jhaveri likened the evolution of the Quest headset to how gaming grew on PCs. “First you got a PC at work and used it and decided you wanted one for at home,” he said. “Then you started playing games on it. We’re creating a social computing network. Smartphones aren’t immersive, but the headset is.”
While Kumar said he can see himself spending large stretches of his workday in the Quest Pro, he’s still not sure he would introduce the technology into his personal life.
“When you connect with your family, touch, presence, and expressions have a lot of meaning,” he said. “The experience of the metaverse right now may satisfy professional needs in that regard but not for personal connections.”