Could it be that Quest 3’s best feature was kept secret by Meta? It’s not mixed reality, the pancake lenses, the higher resolution, or the faster processor. It’s the ability to play it anywhere. Here’s why this is absolutely a game changer for the VR industry!
When Meta launched the Quest 3, they really hyped it up and focused on its mixed reality capabilities, and how the processor enabled developers to enhance the graphics to be close to desktop VR quality in some cases. They also talked about the pancake lenses, and reviewers fawned over its huge sweet spot. But after getting the Quest 3, I discovered its most important feature: the ability to be used outdoors, even in bright sunlight.
At first, it sounds silly or even dangerous. But it works and it makes a huge difference! We live in LA, where most houses are pretty small. For example, our house is much smaller than a tennis court. If I want to use VR in roomscale, I have to move our couch and coffee table. It’s too much of a hassle and there’s a risk of smashing our TV, so usually I just use stationary mode.
With Quest 3, I discovered that you can use VR outdoors. I’ve tried it before with other headsets and it didn’t work. VR headsets with inside out tracking use cameras that see the surroundings, which is interpreted through computer vision, SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping), and accelerometers to detect the headset’s location in space. Those cameras are optimized for indoor use and if you take them in bright sunlight, they have difficulty coping with the wider dynamic range. The cameras also can’t detect the invisible infrared signals from controllers because they’re washed out by sunlight.
Quest 3 is different. It has more advanced cameras for mixed reality. It appears that those cameras have had the incidental benefit of enabling the Quest 3 to be usable outdoors even in bright sunlight. Quest 3 works flawlessly and can track the controllers just as precisely as I when I use it indoors, with no lag or any issues.
Sorry, there is one issue, actually. When was creating the boundary, I found that Quest 3 has a limit of 25 feet by 25 feet. If you try to create a boundary larger than that, it won’t let you. This limit was just imposed by the developers. The Quest 3 itself appears to have unlimited range. If you go to the Developer menu and disable the guardian, you can keep walking beyond the boundary. Thankfully, with color passthrough you can clearly see your surroundings.
WHY DIDN’T META TELL US?
I don’t know why Meta didn’t mention this feature. Does it harm the Quest 3? True — direct sunlight on the inside lenses can damage the display inside but that’s also true even if you use it indoors and leave it carelessly beside a window for example. Moreover, I fly FPV drones with FPV goggles, which have similar lenses. I, along with thousands of other FPV pilots, use my FPV goggles in the sun.
Will the sunlight damage the inside-out cameras? We use smartphone cameras outdoors all the time and aside from not pointing it directly at the sun, we don’t give a second thought to shooting photos or videos outdoors, so I believe the Quest 3’s inside-out cameras should be ok as well.
Anyhow, I plan to continue using it outdoors so I can be the test subject for the VR community. See my log below. Check back in a month or two to see if my Quest 3 still works. Meanwhile, see my other Quest 3 posts here.
Outdoor usage log:
As I mentioned, I’m willing to be the test subject and risk my 512GB Quest 3 to test this. I will be using my Quest 3 everyday outdoors (unless it’s raining obviously).
One month later (11/12/23): I’ve been using it almost everyday outdoors. Still working normally.
Day 8 (10/28/23): Sunny. Still working normally.
Day 4 (10/16/23): Sunny day. Still working normally.
Day 3 (10/15/23): Sunny day. Used it for First Hand and for Thrill of the Fight. Result: Still working normally.
Day 2 (10/14/23): Sunny day. Used it for Les Mills. Result: normal.
Day 1 (10/13/23): Sunny day. Used for Yuki and Thrill of the Fight. Result: normal.