Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., speaks during the Oculus Connect 4 product launch event in San Jose, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. Facebook unveiled a cheaper virtual-reality headset that works without being tethered to a computer, rounding out its plan for pushing the emerging technology to the masses. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Mark Zuckerberg explains why Meta built its Cambria VR headset

Protocol Entertainment

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Friday, we revisit a conversation we had with Mark Zuckerberg earlier this year, and share some of his previously unpublished thoughts on Meta’s next work-centric VR headset.

Why Meta built Cambria

Meta is poised to unveil its next-generation VR headset, code-named Project Cambria, at its Meta Connect conference on Tuesday. The device is expected to have a higher-resolution display as well as a smaller form factor and better weight distribution than Meta’s Quest 2 VR headset.

Cambria will also be a lot more expensive, and Meta likely won’t market it as a consumer VR headset at all. Instead, the company is expected to position it as a device that helps knowledge workers to be more productive and creative. I got a brief demo of Cambria earlier this year and also talked to Mark Zuckerberg about his vision for the metaverse.

Zuckerberg told me why Meta built Cambria and why the company thinks it’s a great work device — a subject worth revisiting ahead of next week’s unveiling, especially since not all of his remarks made it into my stories in May.

  • He told me that the company could have just built a super powerful Quest gaming headset with high-end features, but a lot of the tech that made its way into Cambria would have made it unaffordable for consumers.
  • “It's just going to be a higher-price-point device,” he said. “From a market perspective, you can either position it as an innovation-oriented thing that enthusiasts [might] want, but that's probably going to be a bit too expensive for most consumers.”
  • “Or you can actually go after the use cases where there's a market for that,” he added. “And I think in work there clearly is.”
  • Zuckerberg told me during that interview that Meta was looking to establish two lines of VR devices. “We think that there's a kind of consumer-grade device, in that $300-to-$500 range, for gaming, social use cases, things like that,” he said. “But then there's going to be a work-grade device, which is going to eventually [be] a laptop or workstation replacement.”
  • “By the end of this decade, your VR mixed-reality device will be your main piece [of hardware],” he predicted. ”And you'll be able to see your desk, snap your fingers, bring up your screens.”

Zuckerberg also pitched VR as a better solution for virtual collaboration, arguing that it offers a much better sense of presence than a Zoom call does.

  • “You're not making eye contact, you have no spatial audio. Every meeting you're in kind of looks the same,” Zuckerberg said about Zoom calls. “It feels like it lacks reality, even if you're actually seeing someone's real face.”
  • “Getting an avatar version of someone, but having it spatially anchored with spatial audio, feels more real,” he said.

Cambria will only be a first step. Zuckerberg also made it clear that Meta is looking to invest in VR for work for years to come.

  • “It's the first device in that set,” he said, adding that he expected the device category to ramp up over time.
  • He also predicted that VR headsets will be a must-have for many companies in the future. “If we can make it so that our engineers are 2% more productive, I'd buy them all expensive headsets,” he said.

Zuckerberg is delivering the keynote speech for Meta’s Connect conference, which will be held online in its entirety, at 10 a.m. PT on Tuesday. The conference will also once again feature Meta Reality Labs consulting CTO John Carmack with one of his freewheeling “unscripted” talks.

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