The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an unprecedented demand for virtual reality (VR) headsets and gear. According to the IDC, global shipments of AR and VR headsets increased by a staggering 348.4% in 2021, of which standalone VR headsets occupied nearly 90% of the market share. The organisation also estimates that this growth momentum will continue until 2025.
One of the emerging concepts that could offer brand new use cases for VR headsets is the metaverse. The metaverse, currently being developed by companies like Meta or Microsoft, is an integrated immersive world where there are different spaces for tasks like work, play, art, and content consumption. Users can move freely in and out of these spaces, and the metaverse will generate a self-sustained VR economy.
While the metaverse is still a few years away, companies are coming out with next-gen VR devices that will push the boundaries of innovation.
They are designed to provide users with incredibly immersive experiences so that they can make the most of the rising communications platform. Some of these include:
Apple’s new AR/VR headset (rumored)
Apple’s new headset has been in the rumor mill for a while. It is intended to be a VR headset with added augmented and mixed reality (AR/MR) capabilities distinct from Apple’s AR glasses, which is also under development.
Unlike most headsets, the device will have several cameras and sensors embedded on the external chassis so that it can process inputs from the real-world environment. It will also be significantly light (around 150 grams) and could cost upwards of $2000.
Apple’s VR headset was originally slated for release in 2022 but has recently run into supply chain issues as per Bloomberg. We could now expect it sometime later this year or in early 2023.
Google’s Project Iris
The early details of Google’s Project Iris appeared in January 2022, and the device is yet to be formally announced. It is not a pure-play virtual reality headset, but instead carries on the legacy of 2012’s Google Glass product.
Google already has a large team working on the device and its job listings indicate that it plans to hire many more. Given Google’s massive data center infrastructure and content capabilities, it is well poised to make its own metaverse play and take on Microsoft and Meta.
HTC Vive Focus 3 and New VR Wrist Tracker
While the Vive Focus 3 isn’t a new VR headset, it is getting a new wrist-based tracker and controller.
HTC announced that it will be launching a new wrist tracker at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2022, which will provide users with more options for navigating in VR and eventually the metaverse.
The tracker can be worn on your left or right arm and connects to the headset wirelessly to transmit movement data. When you pick up objects in VR, the device will understand and relay that information to the headset’s sensors.
Importantly, HTC also revealed a 5G-powered VR experience at CES, which could be instrumental for the evolution of the metaverse. The wrist device will be priced at $129 USD, €129, or £119.
Oculus Quest 3 or Pro
This is another rumored VR headset under development that will gain from Meta’s heavy investment in VR in the last few years. Meta typically launches a new generation of Quest every one or two years, so we are in line to see an Oculus Quest 3 or Quest Pro sometime in 2022. Keep in mind that the Oculus Quest 2 was released in October of 2020.
Meta may also develop a homegrown chipset designed for VR and could consider choosing a different direction from the usual Qualcomm chips that power Quest devices. More details are yet to emerge.
Panasonic announced a new VR headset at CES 2022, backed by its fully-owned subsidiary, Shiftall. The device is expected to be used for metaverse applications – Panasonic lists MeganeX along with Shiftall accessories like PebbleFeel, mutalk, and HaritoraX under the VR metaverse section of its website.
Interestingly, MeganeX looks more like a pair of goggles than a VR headset. It is ultra-compact and extremely light, weighing only 250 grams, sports a high-resolution display of up to 5.2K HDR imaging at a refresh rate of up to 120Hz.
The device will also feature built-in diopter adjustment so that near-sighted users can use MeganeX without requiring prescription lenses.
Another new device launched at CES 2022 is the PSVR2 headset by Sony. It is intended for use with Sony’s new Playstation 5 gaming station. The device offers a 4K HDR display with a display resolution of 2000 × 2040 pixels per eye and 90-120Hz refresh rates.
It also has a set of onboard capabilities like eye-tracking and 3D audio, and includes the PSVR2 Sense controller, which incorporates haptic feedback.
This VR headset could be ideal for gaming experiences in the metaverse. Keep in mind that Sony PlayStation has already developed a number of popular VR games, and it has also invested several millions of dollars into Epic Game’s vision for the metaverse.
Meta’s Project Cambria
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg teased the device at Connect 2021 and debuted early renditions of the headset in a 3D demo.
Like several upcoming VR headsets, there are no official details for the device yet, but going by the company’s previous track record, people can expect new sensors for facial expressions, new optics, an ergonomic design, and a premium price point, unlike the Quest 2.
In fact, Zuckerberg explicitly mentioned that it will have features never seen before in an Oculus device, which places it squarely in the metaverse category. The company has mentioned that the headset would be available sometime in 2022.
As the metaverse gradually evolves and takes shape, these seven VR headsets will be instrumental in providing users with rich hardware experiences that can keep up with the the digital frontier’s sophisticated software technologies.