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Forward-looking: Meta has sunk around $50 billion into the metaverse and VR/AR-related technology, but consumers have only shown limited interest so far. As Apple prepares to launch its Vision Pro headset, Meta has begun piggybacking on some of its features, hoping the Cupertino giant's entrance into the arena can legitimize its business.
Starting next week, the Meta Quest 2, Quest 3, and Quest Pro can play the new spatial video format Apple designed for its Vision Pro headset. Meta's update will also introduce basic hand gestures in an attempt to evoke the Vision Pro's controller-less interface.
Apple began allowing iPhone 15 owners to capture spatial videos late last year, which the Vision Pro can view with three-dimensional depth. The Meta Quest mobile app can upload those videos to Meta's cloud, which can read their metadata and convert them for playback on Quest headsets. The company also released a few free demo videos.
Furthermore, the new update enables the headsets to recognize two simple gestures without a controller. Users can place a hand in front of the headset and use a quick pinch to summon the quick menu. A long pinch will recenter the display.
Meta likely recognizes that the Vision Pro's hand-tracking interface could make mixed reality more accessible than the controller-based methods of prior headsets, similar to how the iPhone's touchscreen heralded the shift away from physical buttons. If Apple is successful in mixed reality, Meta's new gestures could signal a shift away from controllers.
Emulating Apple's interface and supporting the company's video format suggests that Meta welcomes the looming competition with the Cupertino giant, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported. Sources within the company told the outlet that it hopes the Vision Pro's release will increase interest in all mixed reality headsets, including Meta Quest.
Meta wants to position the Quest lineup as the Android to the Vision Pro's iPhone, but the core details of that strategy remain unclear. The $500 Quest 3 has an enormous price advantage over the $3,500 Vision Pro, but Meta must overcome the supreme popularity of Apple's software ecosystem, which the Vision Pro leverages. Furthermore, Android's popularity stems from its availability on devices from various hardware manufacturers, and Meta hasn't signaled a willingness for a similar approach.
The company's new update also includes new gaming and livestreaming features. Users can now play browser-based games with Bluetooth Xbox and PlayStation controllers. Microsoft released an Xbox Cloud Gaming app for Meta Quest last December. Additionally, all Meta Quest users can now livestream through Facebook and view the chat screen while livestreaming on YouTube.