A short demo called First Encounters shows off MR’s potential and guides users through setting up their space for MR (not dramatically different from drawing a VR boundary on the floor, but now you also place flat panels to block out furniture). Once completed, you’re treated to an admittedly impressive invasion of alien puffballs, breaking through your walls and ceiling, revealing exotic terrain beyond. However, the game itself is a simple score-rank shooter that lasts a matter of minutes.
Beyond that, it’s hard to find good uses for MR, at least during the review period (several apps Meta had told WIRED would be available to test, were not). The two best examples I stumbled across were Rube Goldberg Workshop, which allows you to create your own elaborate contraptions in your living space, and Zombies Noir: Mixed Reality, another shooter that sees you gunning down the undead as they stumble through vaguely pulp elements layered into your rooms.
Although the former could make better use of mixed reality—letting you incorporate real objects into your outlandish creations—there’s delight in building a network of rails, tracks, gears, steps, and more, accurately laid over your room, and watching the chain reaction play out around you. The latter is a bit more conventional—it could work just as well as a VR, rather than MR, shooter—but is still fun, although it does need rather a lot of space in which to effectively dodge zombies.
Elsewhere, and despite my excitement at typing on a floating keyboard, there’s still not much of a place for productivity or office work in MR beyond virtual meetings or other communication features. There are plenty of 3D painting apps in the Quest store, though, allowing you to draw glorified wireframe models in the air—it’s easy to see the promise there for design work. There’s definitely potential in all those hypothetical applications of MR, but right now, everything feels like a hint of what might be.
Maybe it’s a deliberate stepping stone, another attempt to get the ailing metaverse up and running, using Quest 3 to get people used to bridging the real and the virtual more generally. Work, collaboration, exercise, and play—one headset does all.
There’s no denying that between improved visuals, accurate hand tracking to better interact with immaterial worlds, and a built-in mic and speakers to chat with passersby, the Quest 3 makes wandering around virtual environments more workable than ever.
The problem is, no one’s interested—dipping into Horizon Worlds, Meta’s much-hyped shared world and creation platform, meant to be a best-case example of the metaverse’s potential, is still like wandering a ghost town. A digital comedy club sits empty, a Halloween-themed horror world is as devoid of people as it is of scares. Even Super Rumble, a free-to-play arena shooter built in Worlds and undeniably one of the better experiences on offer, never had more than three players whenever I tried it.
If the metaverse isn’t dead on arrival, it’s definitely on life support, and I’m not sure the Quest 3, even with all the ways it improves the experience, is enough to revive it.
Where the Quest Becomes a Trial
It’s also surprising that, for all the upgrades Meta has given the Quest 3 on the hardware front, the OS and UI remain stubbornly dated. Navigation is messy, and the organization remains terrible—everything you own, installed or not, sits in your App Library tray, listed in order of recent usage. There’s no way to sort by alphabetical order or even separate them by installation status, let alone more advanced features like being able to group apps into folders.