The world is abuzz with rumors of a new Meta VR headset right around the corner but there’s surprisingly little we know about the device. A Meta Quest 3 Lite reveal has only occurred through unconfirmed sources, and they all suggest that the device is getting a low-budget makeover. The compact VR device is already known for being quite affordable, especially when you place the new Apple Vision Pro next to it. Still, it appears that Meta is certain there’s an untapped market of VR enthusiasts who are waiting for something a little more reasonable. While we have no Meta Quest 3 Lite release date out either, we’re almost certain that we’ll see a launch soon enough.

Meta Quest 3 Lite reveal

Image: The Meta Quest 3

What’s Different About the New Meta VR Headset

We’re low on the overall Meta Quest 3 Lite details, but what we do know is that the company is considering a cheaper alternative to the Meta Quest 3. X/Twitter user VR Panda put out a render of what they claim the new Meta VR headset will look like and despite its familiar shape and structure, there is a distinctly different design to the headset. In order to produce a cheaper Meta Quest 3 Lite headset on a larger scale, the company appears to have gotten rid of the passthrough cameras on the outside. 

This indicates that the device will not be as compatible with the physical world considering it won’t draw in inputs like the Meta Quest 3 does right now. The current device creates a 3D mesh of your environment and maps out surfaces allowing your VR material to overlap with it. Financially it makes sense, but as a design choice and considering the utility of the device with a camera, the move is a pretty big step backwards. We couldn’t tell you what they should have done away with instead to make the device cheaper but it feels like the elimination of a critical component. 

It’s also evident that we’re not alone in thinking about the critical role of the passthrough setup. In a blog post by Meta, Reality Labs Director of Engineering for XR Tech Paul Furgale said, “Machine learning Depth has been the team’s most important project for years, and we had to make fundamental advances in ML modeling, acceleration, and more. This allowed us to launch advanced MR features on Quest 3 despite not having state-of-the-art depth hardware. And after Quest 3, I’m convinced that Passthrough and MR will be a standard feature on all future headsets.” Considering this statement was made as recently as January 25, 2024, it seems unlikely that the company will now choose to backtrack on its earlier intention with the Meta Quest 3 Lite reveal.

Emerging Meta Quest 3 Lite Details

Image: The Meta Quest 3 Kit

What Are the Implications of the Emerging Meta Quest 3 Lite Details?

The new Meta VR headset without the integrated passthrough camera is unconfirmed and we only have a single image to go on but it seems unlikely that we’re looking at the finished product. The camera on the outside allows users to make the most of their environment and experiment with augmented reality, which is a major selling point of the Meta Quest 3. This means no hand-tracking controls and no games that overlap with your immediate environment. A move like this will cut down the capabilities of the headset and leave it redundant in the face of all the upcoming technology that most are looking forward to experiencing through the Meta Quest 3 Lite. Even regressing to the black-and-white passthrough tech like in the Quest 2 would only be limiting. 

While this cheaper Meta Quest 3 Lite headset will see a few buyers testing its VR capabilities, we can’t imagine that it’ll be as popular as the existing headsets. Even if Meta does manage to bring the price down, it probably won’t be by much just by getting rid of the cameras. Will a small budget difference be enough to convince users to forego the camera integration and still purchase the new Meta VR headset? That would be unlikely. If they only wanted VR glasses, they’ll likely just look for something that’s half the weight and size of the Meta devices.

Early reports had indicated that the cheaper Meta Quest 3 Lite would hold on to the current  Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 chipset but would go back to using the fresnel lenses from Quest 2 in order to balance out the costs. 

We’re hoping there is more to learn about the Meta Quest 3 Lite details and that what we know so far is only a false alarm. A more official announcement from the company about the new Meta VR headset might be the best way forward but until then, we’ll let the Meta Quest 3 keep us entertained.