The latest setback to Facebook owner Meta's plans for an Apple Vision Pro style headset means a public release is now not expected until 2027.
Meta tried stealing Apple's thunder by making a very early pre-announcement of a Meta Quest 3 headset days before the unveiling of the Vision Pro. It also, though, tried stealing some thunder in 2020 by ordering the entire output of augmented reality displays being made by Plessey.
According to The Information, that deal has soured as Plessey has been unable to develop bright enough displays for Meta. Reportedly, Meta abandoned the intended microLED technology from Plessey, and revert to proven and less costly older technology, liquid crystal on silicon (LCos).
While Meta has announced a four-year plan and says it will release an updated Meta Quest 3 before the end of 2023, that headset is a Virtual Reality (VR) one. An AR headset requires a user to be able to see both digital content created in the headset, and the real world around the user — just as Apple Vision Pro does.
Meta still expects to have an internal-only demonstration AR headset, codenamed Orion, for use in 2024. But The Information says that version will continue to use Plessey's failed microLED displays because Meta is too far along to alter the design.
For Artemis, the public AR headset now expected in 2027, Meta has cut back on components including switching to glass instead of the much more expensive silicon carbide. But a glass headset will have a reduced field of view compared to Meta's earlier headsets.
Meta's silicon carbide headset designs would give users a 70-degree field of view, beating Microsoft's HoloLens and Magic Leap's headset, which offer 50 degrees. Under the new cost-saving plans, Meta's 2027 AR headset will also have a 50-degree field of view.
Apple Vision Pro's field of view is 120 degrees.
The list of compromises Meta has made in the last 12 months reportedly includes entirely cancelling a LiDAR feature, and a projector that would let multiple people see AR/VR objects at the same time.
While most of the report is about future headsets, The Information also has bad news for Meta's existing ones. It claims that Meta will now no longer order any new components for its latest Quest Pro headset, and will stop manufacturing them when current supplies run out.