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InfoQ Homepage News Meta Shares its Mixed-Reality Meta Horizon OS to Third Parties

Meta Shares its Mixed-Reality Meta Horizon OS to Third Parties

Opening up the operating system that powers its Meta Quest devices to third-party hardware makers, Meta aims to create a larger ecosystem and make it easier for developers to create apps for larger audiences.

Dubbed Meta Horizon OS, the operating system combines mixed reality features with others focusing on social presence. The OS supports eye, face, hand, and body tracking to enable more natural interaction and social presence. It makes it possible to move people’s identities, avatars, and friend groups across virtual spaces and devices, meaning that people can be in virtual worlds that exist across mixed reality, mobile, and desktop devices.

Additionally, it supports more mixed reality-oriented features aimed at blending the digital and physical worlds, such as high-resolution Passthrough, Scene Understanding, and Spatial Anchors.

Developers and creators can take advantage of all these technologies using the custom frameworks and tooling we’ve built for creating mixed reality experiences, and they can reach their communities and grow their businesses through the content discovery and monetization platforms built into the OS.

Meta sees its Horizon OS as a key enabling factor for the existence of a variety of specialized devices that better serve customers' diverse interests in categories such as gaming, entertainment, fitness, productivity, and social presence. Examples of companies that are already building new devices based on Horizon OS include ASUS's Republic of Games, Lenovo, and Xbox, Meta says.

At the same time, Meta is making it easier for developers to ship software on the platform, specifically by including titles featured on the App Lab in the official Meta Store. The App Lab was originally introduced to allow developers to distribute apps directly to consumers safely and securely without requiring store approval and without sideloading.

App Lab titles will soon be featured in a dedicated section of the Store on all our devices, making them more discoverable to larger audiences. Some of the most popular apps on the Store today, like Gorilla Tag and Gym Class, began on App Lab.

On the tooling side, Meta began previewing a new spatial app framework to help developers create mixed-reality experiences.

At the hardware level, Horizon OS is tightly tied to the Snapdragon processors that power Meta Quest devices and companies building products using it are expected to use the same hardware and software stack as Meta itself.

Commenting on Meta's announcement, John Carmack shared his view about what it could entail:

What it CAN do is enable a variety of high end “boutique” headsets, as you get with Varjo / Pimax / Bigscreen on SteamVR. Push on resolution, push on field of view, push on comfort. [...] You could add crazy cooling systems and overclock everything. All with full app compatibility, but at higher price points. That would be great!

However, he maintains, "VR is held back more by software than hardware" and the effort required for Meta's engineers to prepare the system and maintain good communication with partners is likely to slow down the further development of the system.

Other commenters chimed in, following Carmack's take, to highlight a different scenario where Meta's announcement could lead to the creation of a new space for VR devices, similar to what Google achieved by launching the Android platform. And almost naturally, when the talk is about Meta, it's hard not to find remarks about privacy, in this case regarding the collection of users' gaze tracking data.

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