Meta yanks VR headset's strap-on booster battery after charging bricks it

A misbehaving Li-ion on your noggin - what could possibly go wrong?

Meta has paused shipments of the wearable battery-slash-head strap accessory for its Quest 3 VR goggles amid reports the device bricks itself when charged.

The $130 Elite Strap with Battery is advertised as making the Facebook giant's virtual-reality headgear more comfortable and extending your adventures in the metaverse by an extra two hours thanks to its built-in batteries. However, Meta confirmed to techno-goggles blog Road to VR the accessory sometimes dies after being charged and its firmware is at fault.

The social network is apparently reworking the device to address the issue and will replacing units on a case-by-case basis.

Word of issues charging the strap bubbled up online over the past month, with users reporting problems appear more prevalent when using third-party USB-C cables and chargers. Some folks reported success using Meta’s supplied cable and charger, while others said this was only a temporary fix and eventually the Elite Strap stopped charging entirely. Users receiving replacement devices under warranty reported similar symptoms.

Meta has stopped short of issuing a recall, presumably because of the many failure modes a lithium-ion battery can exhibit — particularly one you strap to your head — refusing to charge likely doesn’t pose a risk health and safety compared to the potential for the battery to catch fire and cook your cranium.

The battery pack appears to have all but disappeared from online stores. Amazon says it is unavailable while Best Buy’s listing for the device has vanished. The Elite Strap still appears on Meta’s website but is unavailable for purchase at this time. Reviews on online souks are rife with charging-related comments, few positive.

Lithium-ion batteries have excellent energy density, making them ideal for consumer electronics. But when shoddily made, damaged, or charged improperly, they can overheat, short circuit, catch fire, or produce minor explosions.

The most infamous example of the problems with such batteries was Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7, which the Korean giant abandoned after a series of explosive battery failures, including one on a crowded commercial flight.

Earlier this month Lenovo issued a recall for its USB-C Laptop Power bank (Model # PBLG2W) amid concerns the device could catch fire, and Anker issued a voluntary recall of its 535 battery packs after one allegedly sparked a house fire in February 2023.

The Register asked Meta for comment; we’ll let you know if we hear back. ®

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