Meta secretly delayed my most anticipated Quest 3 feature, and we finally know why

When the Meta Quest 3 was unveiled I was impressed by a lot of what it had to offer in both the virtual- and mixed-reality departments, but by far the most interesting feature was Augments – persistent MR elements that you can use to decorate your home. As we approach the one-year mark since the headset was unveiled, Meta’s CTO has finally explained why Augments haven’t launched yet.

If you've forgotten about Augments, the concept is they’re a mixture of functional and visual mixed-reality decorations. Some are just meant to look pretty or offer basic functions, like a clock, while others act as portals to your favorite games or quick access to your favorite apps. You can see a version of them in your VR Meta Home as the little pod that launches First Encounters.

When the Quest 3 was first shown off back in September 2023 at Meta Connect 2023 we saw a little of what Augments would offer, and a promise that they’d launch in the not-too-distant future. Now Andrew Bosworth, Meta’s CTO, has revealed on Instagram that back in January Meta “decided it wasn’t good enough,” and so the team decided “to go back to the drawing board.”

Bosworth explained that Augments felt too much like a toy rather than living up to what Meta felt it had promised and wanted to deliver. However, in order to improve the feature it needed to start from scratch with a “completely different technical architecture.”

As a result the feature has been delayed, and Bosworth didn’t provide any kind of timeline for when we might eventually see Augments in action.

With September’s Meta Connect 2024 fast approaching there’s a small chance we’ll see the feature again there, but I hope the next time we see Augments is when Meta is actually ready to it to the public.

A Meta Quest 3 user throwing a giant die onto a virtual medieval tabletop game board full of castles, wizards and knights

Mixed reality is good, but Augments could make it better (Image credit: Meta)

Over-promise, under-deliver 

Meta is developing a worrying habit of teasing updates and hyping up features that it then takes way longer than expected to release, or which don’t live up to expectations.

Augments are the latest example, but we’ve seen it take a year to roll out virtual legs, and oversell the metaverse way ahead of when it could feasibly work as described, while hardware-wise the Meta Quest Pro wound up being a disappointment compared with more budget-friendly offerings like the Quest 3 that launched not long after – with software like Batman: Arkham Shadow being released as a Quest 3 exclusive and skipping the Pro.

I think Meta is also doing a lot of exciting things in the XR space (a catchall for VR, AR and MR); it recently made Horizon OS available to third-party hardware makers, and I love that it gets frequent software improvements. But its errors stick out and if they persist it’ll be a challenge to trust the announcements Meta makes until the product is actually in people’s hands – either physically or virtually.

Going into Meta Connect 2024 I hope Meta takes on board the lessons it's learned over the past couple of years, and as we go beyond the press conference I’d like to see it be more open with its plans, and with obstacles it faces. Setbacks happen, but if a major feature is getting delayed maybe let us know when that decision is made, rather than leaving us in the dark for months.

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Apple is secretly spending big on its ChatGPT rival to reinvent Siri and AppleCare

Apple is apparently going hard on developing AI, according to a new report that says it’s investing millions of dollars every day in multiple AI projects to rival the likes of ChatGPT.

According to those in the know (via The Verge, citing a paywalled report at The Information), Apple has teams working on conversational AI (read: chatbots), image-generating AIs, and 'multimodel AI' which would be a hybrid of the others – being able to create video, images and text responses to queries.

These AI models would have a variety of uses, including supporting Apple Care users as well as boosting Siri’s capabilities.

Currently, the most sophisticated large language model (LLM) Apple has produced is known as Ajax GPT. It’s reportedly been trained on over 200 billion parameters, and is claimed to be more powerful than OpenAI’s GPT-3.5; this was what ChatGPT used when it first became available to the general public in 2022, though Open AI has since updated its service to GPT-4.

As with all rumors, we should take these reports with a pinch of salt. For now, Apple is remaining tight-lipped about its AI plans, and much like we saw with its Vision Pro VR headset plans, it won’t reveal anything official until it’s ready – if it even has anything to reveal.

The idea of Apple developing its own alternative to ChatGPT isn’t exactly far-fetched though – everyone and their dog in the tech space is working on AI at the moment, with Google, Microsoft, X (formerly Twitter), and Meta just a few of those with public AI aspirations.

Close-up of the Siri interface

Siri can reportedly expect a few upgrades, but when? (Image credit: Shutterstock / Tada Images)

Don't expect to see Apple AI soon

We should bear in mind that polish is everything for Apple; it doesn't release new products until it feels its got everything right, and chatbots are notoriously the antithesis of this philosophy. So much so that AI developers have a term – 'to hallucinate' – to describe when AI chatbots are incorrect, incoherent, or make information up, because they do it embarrassingly frequently. Even ChatGPT and the best ChatGPT alternatives are prone to hallucinating multiple times in a session, and even when you aren’t purposefully trying to befuddle them.

We wouldn’t be too surprised if some Apple bots started to trickle out soon, though – even as early as next month. Something like its Apple Care AI assistant would presumably have a fairly simple task of matching up user complaints with a set of common troubleshooting solutions, patching you through to a human or sending you to a real-world Apple store if it gets stumped. But something like its Ajax GPT? We’ll be lucky to see it in 2024; at least not without training wheels.

If given as much freedom as ChatGPT, Ajax could embarrass Apple and erode our  perception of the brand for delivering finely-tuned and glitch-free products out of the box. The only way we'll see Ajax soon is if AI takes a serious leap forward in terms of reliability – which is unlikely to happen quickly – or if Apple puts a boatload of limitations on its AI to ensure that it avoids making errors or wading into controversial topics. This chatbot would likely still be fine, but depending on how restricted it is, Ajax may struggle to be taken seriously as a ChatGPT rival.

Given that Apple has an event on September 12 – the Apple September event, at which we're expecting it to reveal the iPhone 15 handsets, among other products – there’s a slim chance we could hear something about its AI soon. But we wouldn’t recommend holding your breath for anything more than a few Siri updates.

Instead, we’d recommend keeping your eye on WWDC over the next few years (the company’s annual developer’s conference) to find out what AI chatbot plans Apple has up its sleeves. Just don’t be disappointed if we’re waiting until 2025 or beyond for an official update.

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