Following the groundbreaking success of the Oculus Quest 2, 2022 is set to be a gigantic year for virtual reality and augmented reality headsets. And at the heart of the burgeoning scene is expected to be Project Cambria, an in-development headset from Meta (né Facebook), following on from the successes of its Oculus product line.
First announced at the Meta Connect conference in October 2021, Project Cambria is thought to be what many have previously referred to as the Oculus Quest Pro – a high-end virtual reality and augmented reality hybrid headset, distinct from the Oculus Quest 2 (and eventual Oculus Quest 3) in being a device aimed at and priced for the pro and enthusiast end of the mixed-reality market.
Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg described it as “a completely new advanced and high-end product,” which will sit “at the higher end of the price spectrum.”
Project Cambria is likely to represent the cutting edge of what’s currently possible in wireless virtual reality, unrestricted by the affordability constraints that other Oculus headsets were penned in by as Facebook / Meta looked to prove interest in widespread VR adoption.
With Apple said to also be working on high-end virtual and augmented reality devices, not to mention the imminent launch of the PlayStation VR 2 headset from Sony, Meta will be looking to shore up its position right across the spectrum of all things VR.
Interested? You should be. Here’s everything you need to know about Project Cambria so far.
Project Cambria price and release date
Despite much of what Project Cambria has to offer being shrouded in secrecy, we surprisingly have a release window for the device already in place. Meta has committed to a 2022 release for the headset.
When precisely that launch will take place is hard to pin down. The original Oculus Quest launched in May of 2019, with the Oculus Quest 2 following in October 2020. That’s roughly 18 months apart; by that reckoning, May of 2022 would seem an appropriate guess.
However, development timelines between products can be different, and with the ongoing pandemic and supply chain issues that have plagued all kinds of consumer tech products, we wouldn’t bet the house on even an educated guess.
What is guaranteed, by Zuckerberg’s own admission, is that this will be a more expensive device than the $299 / £299.99 Oculus Quest 2. Don’t be surprised if the headset lands above the $500 / £500 mark – if not significantly more.
Project Cambria specs and features
Meta has been pretty candid already about what to expect from the Project Cambria hardware, and it’s looking to be markedly more advanced than any Oculus headset that has preceded it.
For starters, we know it’ll be a standalone, wireless headset. That’s not to say it won’t be able to connect to a PC for PC VR experiences (or even connect wirelessly to a powerful host PC ala the Oculus Link feature), but since the end of the Oculus Rift line in 2021, Meta’s focus has purely been on cable-free (out of the box, at least) VR hardware.
One much-requested feature will finally be getting its moment in the spotlight – eye tracking. It’s an important aspect of the way humans interact with the world, and a readily-exploitable tool for developers of advanced virtual reality applications. With eye-tracking, devs have another form of user input to play with, not only letting them better understand where a user’s gaze is focused (and tailor interactive experiences appropriately), but also to take full advantage of foveated rendering.
In short, foveated rendering makes sure that the area of the display a user is focused on is displayed in the greatest possible detail, while the surrounding areas of a virtual environment aren’t shown in such high fidelity - much like how the human eye masks peripheral vision. It can be used to maximize device resource usage – pumping processing power only onto the fidelity of objects and areas that a user’s gaze is interacting with. It’s a hugely exciting part of the future-VR puzzle.
Likewise, face tracking will be on board Project Cambria. This will allow in-game avatars to mimic your facial expressions in real time, potentially even opening up accessibility functions such as lip reading. So far however, both eye tracking and facial tracking are mainly expected to be used for avatar-based features – but their potential usage could go way beyond that.
Many of these features can be seen in action in the video below – what is believed to be an orientation video for new users of the Project Cambria headset, which leaked ahead of the announcement for Project Cambria:
Project Cambria will go beyond virtual reality experiences however, and will lean ever more into the augmented reality features that are increasingly becoming available to Oculus Quest users.
Supporting this will be the introduction of high resolution color passthrough features. The Oculus Quest 2 uses an array of head-mounted cameras to present the world outside of your headset on the internal displays – primarily for safely tracking your real-world play space, in real time. But the current Quest devices can only offer a black and white view, at a relatively low resolution.
Project Cambria will make this sharper and in color, expanding the potential for augmented reality experiences. It’s not quite the same as having transparent lenses, as seen in HoloLens or the hibernating Magic Leap headsets, but Cambria's augmented reality will also benefit from the expanded field of view that internal VR lenses can currently offer over transparent alternatives.
Project Cambria design
Project Cambria, while remaining a head-mounted unit, will look rather different to existing hardware from Meta, thanks to the use of new lens types.
These “pancake” lenses have a thinner profile, reportedly resulting from their use of mini LED panels. Sharper and cooler to run, this is expected to allow Project Cambria’s front area to be much less bulky than that of the Oculus Quest 2, boosting both comfort and resolution.
With a new industrial design afforded by the new lenses, VR data miners have been able to reconstruct what they believe Project Cambria will look like by creating 3D models from render textures. You can find them in the video above and tweet below:
Project Cambria https://t.co/NnHWBJgUZK pic.twitter.com/oD2nD6aFePNovember 2, 2021
If the sleuthing here points to the real product, the headset will be returning to the darker outer shell design of older Oculus devices, with considerable shaving of the depth off the frontmost element of the headset.
A more pronounced padded forehead rest could be in the cards too, as well as more padding on the rear part of the strap. In conjunction with the apparent reduced weight, these features could lead to a much more comfortable headset than the Oculus Quest 2, taking cues from the Rift S and PlayStation VR, whose front forehead rests lead to very ergonomic fits.
So what about the controllers in those renders…
Project Cambria controllers
Project Cambria’s motion controllers look significantly different too. While retaining the disc-on-a-wand design the Quest controllers have popularized, you’ll note that Cambria controllers appear to be lacking the tracking ring earlier models have.
This seems to be afforded by the inclusion of infrared tracking cameras on the controllers themselves. You can see this in both the above renders and the below apparent leaked controller photos, all said to be from a Facebook / Meta Workplace video conference. (Workplace is Meta’s internal Slack / Teams solution).
Whether a prototype, or a fake, there’s definitely a correlation between the texture renders and this controller – which also suggests a white colorway may be in the cards for Project Cambria. Dropping the tracking rings would presumably lead to a lighter controller, and reduce the friction between user and VR experience. Previous firmware leaks have suggested that some form of laser-tracking system between the controllers and headset will ensure the two remain in sync and in communication.
Expect hand tracking to increasingly be the norm in VR and AR too; the tracking and processing improvements expected to be found in Project Cambria should help to make the device more accurate and comfortable in day to day use.
What about Oculus Quest 3?
Rest assured that the Oculus Quest 3, now more likely to be known as the Meta Quest 3, will still likely launch as a separate offering from the Project Cambria.
Speaking with The Information, Zuckerberg stressed that the Oculus Quest line has a long life ahead of it. "We have product teams spun up now working on the next few generations of virtual reality and what Quest 3 and 4 are gonna look like," Zuckerberg stated on the podcast.
Consulting CTO John Carmack also reinforced the idea that Project Cambria represents an expansion of the line, rather than a replacement to existing devices whose price point gives them wider appeal.
“An important point here is that the ‘project Cambria’ product will *NOT* replace Quest 2; it will be sold alongside it,” Carmack said. “Quest 2 will have a long life.”
What will likely happen is that, going forward, Project Cambria will debut the most bleeding-edge VR features for enthusiasts, with those features being implemented later down the line in cheaper, successive Quest devices.
Backwards compatibility with Quest titles
There are now thought to be as many as 10 million Oculus Quest headsets in homes around the world, and it appears Meta has no intention of alienating its existing userbase by encouraging them to re-buy their VR libraries for any eventual Project Cambria headset.
Just as Oculus Quest titles were compatible with Oculus Quest 2, Project Cambria is said to have “compatibility” with the Quest. While Meta hasn’t explicitly referred to this as “backwards compatibility,” it’s hard to understand this any other way. Certainly, the aforementioned orientation video explicitly references Beat Saber in its visuals – perhaps the most popular existing Oculus Quest title of all.
How many of the newer headset’s new features will be taken advantage of by the older software remains to be seen however, though even a more ergonomic form factor could breathe new life into old titles.