An industry leader in consumer virtual reality technology for gaming is working on a new, weird feature to enhance VR headsets.
The Meta Quest is undeniably the leading consumer VR technology right now, as it is an affordable entry-level system that can run completely on its own. Building on its success, parent company Meta (formerly Facebook) is investing heavily in VR research, with a recently published patent offering some insight into the potential future of virtual reality.
As game-ready VR’s most affordable option, the Meta Quest is quickly monopolizing the consumer side of the market by releasing exclusive products and undercutting the prices of its competition. Other companies are striving for improvement, but for now, Meta dominates the affordable VR space.
A recent patent application from Meta details plans for a VR device that would allow people to see a subject’s face while wearing the device. The way it provides the rendering is complicated and several iterations of the idea are included in the patent documentation; one of them even goes so far as to use a camera in the headset to send a 3D model of the subject’s face to a screen outside the headset. This results in an effect similar to wearing a diving mask or snorkel, framing the subject’s eyes with the headset.
The result may not look natural, but it’s an interesting way to make facial expressions readable to a remote viewer without a headset on. The documents do not specify actual use of the technology, but such specific changes to VR headsets would likely apply for testing purposes. A device that allows for more detailed representation of player reactions could provide useful data for game testing, and as the technology develops, its actual use could become clearer.
While Meta’s research into VR technology is important and promising, patenting it will most likely continue to give the company a competitive edge. Other devices aiming for a similar price point like the Lynx R1 don’t have access to the Meta Quest library of exclusive offerings, and creating an affordable device that functions completely standalone is even more challenging.
It’s no secret that Meta’s intensive data collection is the real prize of the Quest, especially with Meta’s VR development at huge losses. Facebook has a huge amount of money to become the best option even if it is through anti-consumer means like platform exclusivity and requiring an account for tracking purposes. Hopefully real innovation will strike when the competition catches up meta‘s current near monopoly.