First look at Meta’s Project Cambria VR headset leaves us underwhelmed

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After months of promising that its Project Cambria headset would revolutionize the worlds of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality, Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has finally given us a first look at what it can do; and we’re a more than a little underwhelmed.

Following on from the runaway success that has been the Meta Quest 2 (formerly Oculus Quest 2) Meta’s next headset has been set up perfectly for a homerun. VR is more popular than ever and the Quest 2 leads the pack with its standalone design, impressive capabilities, and library of incredible (and exclusive) VR games.

Project Cambria is set to adopt everything that made the Quest 2 great but will take everything up a level with improved specs and features.

One such upgrade is color passthrough, a tool that will allow Cambria wearers to see the real world around them in full color rather than in monochrome like on the Quest 2. 

This unimpressive sounding feature will actually be a massive improvement for Meta’s headset’s mixed reality capabilities. But based on Mark Zuckerberg’s demo you’d be forgiven if that wasn’t the impression you came away with.

A not so next-gen presentation

In a post on his Facebook page, Meta’s CEO gave us a narrated, minute-long look at his time playing The World Beyond.

This mixed-reality game is built using Meta’s new Presence Platform (more on that in a minute) and features a cute alien/rabbit/fox hybrid thing as your loyal companion (imagine a knock-off Stitch from Disney’s 2002 film Lilo and Stitch).

The game itself looks fun, Zuckerberg throws a virtual ball around for his companion to fetch, and he gives the little critter a scratch on the head when he does a good job. It’s effectively an AR Tamagotchi.

But the demo’s presentation carries a middle-school video project vibe.

We get barely 30 seconds of footage of Zuckerberg actually playing the game, and even less of what his perspective is. Adding insult to injury, the few clips we do get from inside the headset are a choppy mess – showing that Cambria won’t make many improvements on the Quest 2’s lackluster video recording features.

This felt like the sort of footage you’d expect from a leak – something shot in rush to avoid being caught by the higher-ups – not an official first look.

Project Cambria has been hyped up as the PS5 to the Quest 2’s PS4, but this demo makes it look more like the PS4 Slim

Beyond the color, none of The World Beyond looked like it couldn’t be done on the Quest 2 – perhaps that’s why a monochrome version is coming to the headset’s App Lab’s program “soon” according to Zuckerberg.

Much like its VR Foo Fighters concert, Meta needs to stop hampering its own efforts. 

Presence Platform sounds really cool. It’ll allow developers to use AI and machine learning to create inventive mixed reality experiences with hand and voice interactions. But what we’ve seen so far doesn’t look particularly revolutionary.

With the Project Cambria headset coming this year there’s only so long before Meta and Zuckerberg give us a proper presentation to show us what its new hardware looks like and is capable of. But this demo has definitely dampened our expectations.

It turns out the ‘Meta killer’ we’ve been waiting for isn’t the PSVR 2 or the Valve Index 2, it’s Meta itself.

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