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A picture-perfect metaverse is years away. Meta’s prototypes prove it.

Meta’s Starburst virtual reality prototype doesn’t look anything like a traditional headset. From some angles, it looks like someone ripped the guts out of a tiny desktop computer — including the fans — and attached a pair of heavy-duty handles to it. And those are crucial because Starburst is too heavy to wear, a result of the bulky, self-contained lamp bolted to its back.

By Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s admission, Starburst is “wildly impractical” in its current form. But for a company that wants to give its users virtual experiences that are nearly indistinguishable from the real thing, these enormous VR binoculars are still an important development.

To truly blur the line between the physical and the virtual — or passing the “visual Turing test,” as some researchers say — Meta has to clear some serious hurdles. Future headsets need to be sleeker than the ones we have now, and yet more capable. And the screens inside them need to be sharper, smarter, and brighter than anything out there right now.


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