I thought it was worthwhile writing a little about how Oculus is unlocking the Quest with the new App Lab distribution process.
App Lab is a new way to share early access concepts with the Quest community that finally breaks down the extreme walled garden that Oculus aka Facebook has built around the platform. For Quest it will be the only way someone can distribute content for the device without being chosen and blessed by Oculus. It will still require a quality app that doesn’t violate a myriad of requirements and policies but it opens the door to really any idea and especially ideas that are not fully developed.
With VR there has always been a complicated web of issues around quality, stickiness, and trying to finally get it widely adopted and moving forward as a medium. PC VR has had a painful path so far with the requirement for a PC that meets certain performance specifications, setup of tracking devices, and a tethered headset – forget about taking it to a friend and showing them what VR is all about. Don’t get me wrong, PC VR is phenomenal for providing the computing power for the amazing visuals we all want. Games like Half Life: Alyx make it very clear how amazing this can be. We all want to experience VR at that level of quality and beyond.
But on the flipside Quest has been unique since it essentially gives you VR in a backpack. Take it anywhere, throw it on, jump into other worlds anywhere anytime. No wires, no PC, no complicated setup. This power has really made it more like the first smartphone. A computer in your pocket with apps for everything. This is just the VR version of that vs the PC VR era we have been struggling through. And Quest may ultimately help with PC VR making it possible to play those high fidelity PC VR games with an Oculus Link cable.
However to try and make Quest work Oculus took it on a different path than PC VR with a strict publishing process that limited it to only what they wanted on the platform and only what they deemed to be the highest quality apps and also what would benefit the platform the most in terms of adoption and be profitable to developers. That makes a lot of sense and it has worked – by far Quest has been the most successful VR platform to date. However this left a lot of innovation behind. Most indies don’t have the capacity to make AAA titles and are often half experiment and half game. So much possibility has been left out and the true potential of the medium has been diminished because of it.
So here we are finally at a turning point where there is enough momentum with the platform that Oculus feels they can open it up some. SideQuest which was the only way to get content outside the Oculus store is now shifting to be a catalog for App Lab content since Oculus still won’t just make an App Lab category in the store – what is the point but baby steps I guess. The easiest way to install App Lab content is to browse to the install page from an outside catalog on your phone or whatever device you have the Oculus app installed on. UploadVR has a detailed post on this but here is an easy to enter quick link to all App Lab content:
Finally Oculus is unlocking the Quest with App Lab and the fully locked platform is now at least not fully locked. Only time will tell if Oculus will allow it to really be more open.