Meta opens up Quest OS to third parties, mirroring the strategy that helped Android grow

Meta opens up Quest OS to third parties, mirroring the strategy that helped Android grow
Meta, the company behind the excellent Quest 3 VR headset, has just dropped a bombshell on the XR industry. In a recent blog post the company confirmed that it was rebranding its VR OS to Meta Horizon OS and opening it up to third party device manufacturers.

This is huge news. It mirrors what Google did eons ago when it opened up Android to third party smartphone manufacturers. We can all see how that ended up: with Android currently holding 69% of the global market share. We also have a plethora of Android-powered smartphones, tablets and other devices to choose from nowadays.

Meta says that Meta Horizon OS will feature all of the technology Meta has perfected in the last decade. This includes:

  • Inside-out tracking (where VR headsets can track their position without the need for external sensors)
  • Eye tracking
  • Hand tracking
  • Face tracking
  • Body tracking
  • Spatial Anchors (reference points in your environment that enable multiple uses like virtual elements persisting between sessions)
  • Passthrough (where a headset uses its external cameras to show you a live feed of your environment)
  • and Scene Understanding (where the headset uses Passthrough and Spatial Anchors in addition to environment analysis for a rich and interactive Mixed Reality experience)

Meta Horizon OS will also heavily lean into social features. The Meta Quest mobile app is being renamed to Meta Horizon app. The social features of Meta Horizon OS will let users socialize in virtual worlds across Mixed Reality as well as on mobile and desktop.

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The Meta Quest 3 is one of the best VR headsets we've ever reviewed.

Rebranding and restructuring of the Meta Quest Store

The Meta Quest Store – which currently has a massive sale on Quest games – is being rebranded and restructured. Its new name is going to be the Meta Horizon Store. Quest App Lab is now going to be integrated into Meta Horizon Store going forward.

Quest App Lab is where apps that are under active development but not ready for full release are shared with the public. These generally include the Alpha, Beta and Early Access versions of said apps. Meta acknowledges that some of the most popular Horizon Store apps today began as early release products on App Lab. Thus, App Lab titles like Laser Limbo will now be featured in their own dedicated section on the Meta Horizon Store.

—Meta, Quest Blog, April 2024

There’s also going to be a new spatial app framework for mobile developers. This framework, claims Meta, will be similar to existing tools mobile developers already use. The framework is intended to help these developers bring their mobile apps to Meta Horizon OS, or to create new Mixed Reality apps from scratch.

Asus, Lenovo and Xbox will be making new headsets

Remember how I said above that this move was akin to the sharing of Android as an open-source platform? It’s already bearing fruit. Meta has confirmed that Asus, Lenovo and Xbox are working on new headsets powered by Meta Horizon OS.

Asus is working on a performance gaming headset which I am particularly excited for. My guess is it will feature high resolutions never seen before in addition to large fields of view similar to the recently unveiled Pimax Crystal Super. We might even see higher refresh rates than we currently have in existing headsets, though that will be really difficult to run even on a good gaming PC.

While the Asus headset will be used for playing the best VR games on the market, Lenovo is working on a Mixed Reality headset. Meta says this headset will be tailored for productivity, learning and entertainment. Lenovo is renowned for quality offerings at unbeatable prices and this headset might give the Apple Vision Pro a run for its money.

Lastly, Meta is teaming up with Xbox to work on a limited edition Meta Quest that is “inspired by Xbox”. I have no clue what that cryptic clue means. Is it green and black? Will we get access to Xbox Live on Quest headsets? Or maybe it’s just a standard Meta Quest 3 with a different badge. We’ll know soon enough I guess.

Meta will continue making headsets

Google shared Android with the world but continued making its own Pixel phones. Similarly, Meta has confirmed that opening up Meta Horizon OS to third parties does not mean the company won’t be making any more VR headsets.

—Meta spokesperson, Road to VR, April 2024

This might lead to a scenario similar to the Google Pixel phones’ cult following: with a sizable subset of VR gamers choosing only Meta Quest headsets for the vanilla Meta Horizon OS experience. Google Pixel phones aren’t completely stock Android, of course. But many believe these phones are the closest to how Android is supposed to be.

And with Meta Horizon OS open to third parties now I presume there’s going to be lots of changes to our list of the best VR headsets.
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