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What Facebook’s Quest & Aria products mean to the XR industry

Educational

Varag Gharibjanian

Facebook’s announcement about its AR glasses (Aria) and VR HMD (Quest 2) is proof that big tech players are still investing and believing that AR/VR HMDs are the future of computing.

Project Aria

It is exciting that this will launch as early as 2021, but it likely won’t have a display, so it’s definitely unclear how this will be a true AR HMD (like Nreal). It is also unclear what use case it will unlock that is different than what Bose and Snap have already tried. That being said, not having a display and partnering with Ray Ban should mean that it will have a brand and form factor that a consumer might be more inclined to purchase. It is also pretty clear that the images and specs they shared are for research rather than a final product, so it’s not very likely that the first consumer device will be similar.

In my opinion, having an AR HMD that can capture video, store, and stream could be more beneficial for critical enterprise use cases where recordings of mission critical employee tasks need to be observed, but I’m not sure Facebook is too concerned with the enterprise play.

Oculus Quest 2

On the Oculus VR side, the Quest 2 is by far the most impressive device for the price point, having a higher resolution display along with an insanely powerful Qualcomm XR2 chip all for $300. It also has a pass through mode so you are not always forced to be in a closed virtual scene. I believe Facebook might start even taking share from more enterprise focused devices with the Quest 2, because the value ratio is just so much higher than some of the $2k-4k devices that are out in the market today.

All of this together with robust hand tracking, means that there are fewer technical excuses than ever for VR to not take off. The only challenge that will remain is content, and I’m not sure a couple games will be enough, nor am I convinced that the productivity use case is any more than a demo.

With the holiday season around the corner, Facebook should see way more unit sales than they did with the first Quest, assuming they manage inventory better this time.

Bottom line:

For consumer VR we are right before (maybe two years) from the iPhone moment of the smartphone world. We have very capable VR specific hardware with a dominant design emerging, but we don’t (yet) have the app store/software/content that will enable use cases more effectively than smartphones/laptops, even gaming.

For consumer AR we are still in the briefcase/brick phone era and quickly approaching the feature phone era. In the next couple years we will see big players make their debut with glasses that are likely too bulky for mass adoption if they have display based AR or not meaningful enough to replace a smartwatch if they don’t. That being said, AR glasses are becoming more useful in the enterprise and there will continue to be demand that will fund more consumer capable options downstream.

At Clay AIR, I get to learn about all of the great devices that are emerging in to the market. I also get to see how difficult it truly is to bring together complex hardware and software in one product. Even if the industry hasn’t exploded yet, it is very clear that the largest most innovative companies still see it as the future and don’t mind building until we get there.

See the original LinkedIn post here