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    Meta unveils Quest Pro VR headset, new tech partnerships and full-body avatars

    Meta portrays the metaverse as the future of work, play and social life at today’s Connect conference.

    At this year’s virtual Connect connect conference, Meta has finally lifted the curtain on the long-awaited Quest Pro — its latest virtual reality (VR) headset.

    Until today, the Quest Pro has gone by the shadowy codename of “Project Cambria.” Rumors have been swirling for months about the headset’s form factor and capabilities, but Meta hadn’t made any major announcements until today. In a livestream hosted on Facebook’s website and also virtually in Horizon Worlds (Meta’s VR platform), the company’s founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg revealed the Quest Pro to the public for the first time. 

    The new headset has been designed with an emphasis on mixed reality (MR), a technology which allows for the interplay between physical and virtual elements. It also includes inward-facing cameras, which according to Zuckerberg will enable users to be represented by more expressive and realistic avatars, in turn making for more immersive and engaging interpersonal communication experiences in the metaverse. 

    Meta is also positioning the Quest Pro largely as a tool for the workplace — even if that workplace is remote or hybrid. Zuckerberg described it as “a high-end device designed for work,” and the presentation included a montage of scenes in which young, hip-looking people were using the headset for a variety of workplace tasks.

    The company was also sure to undercore the fact that its tech is also being used for play, pointing out the popularity of fitness apps in VR and announcing that it would soon be releasing an “active pack” for the Quest 2, making the headset more workout-friendly.

    It was also announced that the headset will come with tabletop charging platform, a Snapdragon XR2+ processor — giving it around 50% more battery life than its predecessor, the Quest 2 — as well as new handheld Touch Pro controllers, which operate independently to track the user’s movements (they can also be turned into styluses in Horizon Workrooms, the app’s business meetings feature).

    The Quest Pro is now available for preorder for $1,499. 

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    Meta partners up with Microsoft, Accenture and Zoom

    Meta has some new partnership arrangements aimed at developing and expanding its metaverse technology.

    After revealing the Quest Pro, Zuckerberg was joined by Microsoft chief executive and chairman Satya Nadella; the two tech magnates jointly revealed a new partnership between their two companies which will include new collaborative features, including the upcoming launch of Microsoft Teams in Quest. 

    Julie Sweet, the chief executive of Accenture, also made an appearance to announce a new three-brand partnership — which she described as “the perfect trifecta” — aimed at expanding business use-cases for the metaverse. 

    Meta has also partnered with Zoom to integrate its avatars into the video call platform. 

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    New and improved avatars

    The company devoted a significant chunk of time during the Connect keynote to tease innovations that it will soon be deploying for its avatar technology.

    Using the same upgraded Horizon Worlds avatar that was revealed to the world shortly after a lower-quality version was mocked on social media, Zuckerberg (literally) walked the audience through one of is major avatar upgrades: legs. Until now, Horizon Worlds avatars have been limited to floating torsos, arms, and legs. That will soon change: Full-body avatars will soon arrive to Horizon Worlds, and from there they will gradually spread out to other virtual experiences on Quest. 

    The Meta Avatars Store is also slated to launch in VR later this year, a development which Zuckerberg hopes will “help kickstart the marketplace for digital, interoperable goods.”

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    Zuckerberg also teased innovations that the company has planned in augmented reality (AR) — specifically regarding his company’s ongoing relationship with Ray Ban — as well as neural interface electrohypgraphic (EMG) technology. 

    Meta’s CEO closed out the Connect keynote on a philosophical note, highlighting the brand’s commitment to building an open and interoperable metaverse: “We’ve always been about building in the open,” he told viewers. 

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