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Is Meta's Project Cambria just around the corner?

Project Cambria was announced at the Facebook (now Meta) Connect event back in October 2021. In a video interview between Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg and Director of Product, Oculus VR Angela Chang, Project Cambria was described as “a completely new advanced and high-end product” that will “bring us a step closer to the Metaverse.”


Described in an accompanying summary note from Meta as a “next-generation all-in-one VR headset”, Project Cambria is expected to complement Meta’s existing Quest 2 VR headset by providing consumers with a more powerful, higher specification, higher price point alternative – think Microsoft’s approach with the Xbox Series X (Cambria) and lower specification Xbox Series S (Quest 2). Improvements on the Quest 2 VR headset are outlined below.


Improved social presence


Social presence refers to the degree to which you perceive the presence of others i.e., the psychological perception that other people are physically present. Meta describes social presence as “feeling truly present” and being able to “share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life.” So, what are Meta improving? First is eye tracking, a feature long requested by the VR community, which makes is possible for virtual avatars to replicate eye movements, enhancing social interactions. Secondly is face tracking. Cambria will include additional sensors that track and replicate facial expressions in real time, further enhancing the VR social experience.


Colour Passthrough


The existing Quest 2 Passthrough feature allows users (while still wearing the headset) to step outside their virtual world and see a real-time view of their surroundings. On the Quest 2 VR headset this feature is only available in black and white. Project Cambria’s cameras are expected to be capable of high-resolution color passthrough, providing users with a much more accurate representation of the real world.


Pancake optics


The Quest 2 uses Fresnel lenses, which are good for VR because they are both lighter and more cost-effective that conventional lenses but require a large gap between the lenses and the display. Recent improvement in pancake optic technology, notably Kopin's new P95 pancake lens, mean the display can be much closer to the lenses. This will allow the Cambria headset to be significantly more compact, and therefore less bulky and more comfortable, than the Quest 2 headset.


Tracking ring removal


The Quest 2 Touch accessory comprises a pair of handheld controllers that give you hand presence – the feeling that your virtual hands are your own. The existing controllers include tracking rings that carry the cameras required to track your hand movements. The Cambria controllers are expected to do away with these tracking rings to provide a lighter, more balanced experience.


So when will the Cambria headset be released? So far, Meta has committed to a “2022” release date. The Quest 2 was released in October 2020, 18 months after the original Quest headset. So we could be expecting Cambria any time now. Upcoming announcement opportunities include the Laval Virtual Europe event between 12th and 14th April, the Global Metaverse Conference between 27th and 29th April, and the International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality, or AIVR 2022, between 22nd and 24th July. Meta may also be waiting on a premium title to convince buyers to invest. It's worth noting that a VR version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas also has a 2022 release date...


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