Meta has named the date for Meta Connect 2023 – September 27 – and we know that the highlight of the company's annual hardware and software showcase will be the full unveiling of the Meta Quest 3 headset.
Meta Connect is something of a mixed bag, in which we’ll not only find out about the new products that Meta is releasing in the near future, such as the Quest 3, but also its plans for stuff we might not get our hands on for the best part of a decade, if not longer.
Here are four announcements and updates that we expect to see at Meta Connect 2023 – as well as one announcement that we think Meta won’t be making.
More Meta Quest 3 details
This isn’t much of a prediction, as Meta has confirmed that it'll be officially unveiling the Quest 3 during Meta Connect 2023.
We already know a fair amount about the Quest 3 – it’s a standalone VR headset that will succeed the Quest 2, it’s Meta’s “most powerful headset” yet, and it will start at $499 / £499 / AU$829. But we don’t have many specific details about its specs, release date, and what different Quest 3 models will offer – Meta’s “starts at” pricing suggests that more expensive upgraded versions of the Quest 3 will be available, and while we expect they’ll just be different storage options (as was the case with the Quest 2), we’ll have to see what Meta unveils.
We also don’t know if Meta will show off any new software to take advantage of the Quest 3’s specs. It may announce new VR games and apps that will take advantage of the Quest 3's improved performance over its predecessors, as well as mixed reality software that will be able to use the Quest 3’s improved color passthrough (the Quest Pro’s color-passthrough was okay but very grainy, and according to people in the know the Quest 3’s passthrough is significantly better).
Microsoft Office on Quest
Speaking of Quest 3 software announcements, we hope that Meta and Microsoft will finally announce when native Office apps will be available on the Quest platform. During last year’s Meta Connect 2022 event, the companies announced that Office programs (like Word and Excel) were coming to the Quest headsets, but a year later they've yet to materialize – the only way to access them is via a virtual desktop app that’s synced with your real-world PC.
The companies also said that Xbox game streaming would be coming to VR, but since the announcement details have been scarce. Meta Connect 2023 would be the perfect time to finally give us a release date – and hopefully one that’s in 2023, as we’re tired of waiting.
Given that Apple is set to launch its Apple Vision Pro headset in early 2024, Meta only has a few months left to make its platform look as strong as possible before the new rival enters the space. This Apple headset will likely include VR versions of Apple’s catalog of productivity apps such as Pages and Keynote – so Meta would be smart to get Microsoft’s software onto its systems asap.
The metaverse and AI
Horizon Worlds, Meta’s metaverse social media platform, usually gets a shout-out during Connect events, though the announcements are often a little lackluster – last year it was the news that avatars would be getting legs. And to make matters worse, we just hopped into Horizon Worlds, and as of August 14, 2023 our avatars are still legless…
Horizon Worlds doesn’t need legs; it needs reasons for people to use it. Meta has been steadily building up a catalog of VR experiences in the app and making various graphical improvements to it, but there’s still little reason to use Horizon Worlds over other VR software. Hopefully, at Connect 2023 Meta will finally give us a reason to try its metaverse out and not walk… sorry, bounce, away immediately.
One way Meta in which could try to reignite interest is to combine AI with the metaverse, and bring together two of tech’s biggest current subjects. Meta has been hard at work developing AI following the success of ChatGPT and other platforms, and it may want to harness those efforts to try and make its platform more appealing – perhaps by using AI to create bigger and better Horizon Worlds experiences, or to add NPC bots to make the service seem a bit more popular than it is.
With a smartphone version of Horizon Worlds also reportedly on the way for those who don't have a VR headset, some kind of AI integration could give more people a reason to try out the app.
AR hardware plans
At Connect 2021 and 2022 Meta mentioned augmented reality (AR) tech, and shown off things it’s working on; but it’s all been in-development tech and prototypes, rather than anything the buying public can get their hands on. We expect this might change at Meta Connect 2023.
Both the 2021 and 2022 events came with teases of hardware that would arrive the following year – in 2021 this was Project Cambria (aka the Quest Pro), and in 2022 Meta teased a new consumer-friendly VR headset (the Quest 3). In 2023 we expect it’ll do something similar, but for AR hardware rather than VR.
One big reason is that we don’t think Meta is ready to tease a new VR headset yet (more on that below), but even if it did, we think an AR announcement makes more sense.
As we mentioned, Meta has been publicly talking about its AR plans for some time, and there are only so many times it can kick the ball down the road before we get tired of it teasing AR tech we can’t use. Additionally, with Apple preferring to talk about augmented reality when discussing about its Vision Pro headset (rather than virtual reality), Meta may want to release its own AR tech to try and capture some of the renewed interest in the space that the Vision Pro has created.
If Meta does tease some kind of AR glasses, it’ll be interesting to see if they’re created in partnership with RayBan – like its Ray-Ban Stories glasses – or if they’re an entirely Meta product. We’ll have to wait and see what happens on September 27.
No Meta Quest Pro 2 teaser
If you’re hoping that Meta will also tease a ‘Meta Quest Pro 2’ during the event, we wouldn’t recommend holding your breath. While this isn’t impossible, we feel that Meta will keep its VR focus on the Quest 3 during the event (outside of showing us any prototypes for non-consumer products, as it’s done in the past)
Our reasoning here is twofold. First, teasing another VR headset just after the Quest 3 releases could put an instant dampener on any excitement people have for the new headset – it won’t get its time in the spotlight, which could hurt sales.
Second, we don’t think Meta is ready to commit to launching a new VR headset in 2024 – which is when a Meta Quest Pro 2 teased at Meta Connect 2023 would arrive, based on Meta’s usual tease-release cadence.
That’s because Meta reportedly recently canceled an in-development Quest headset prototype that leakers have said was the Quest Pro 2. While Meta has argued that the headset wasn’t the Quest Pro 2, and was instead an undesignated prototype, based on the leaks it sounds like this headset would have become the Pro 2 if development had continued and it was given an official name.
No matter what the project was or wasn’t called, Meta hasn’t disputed the fact that it was canceled, and it will take time for Meta to develop a new prototype to replace it, which tells us the Quest Pro 2 is too far away from being ready for Meta to tease anything.