Facebook spent more time than usual talking about their success with VR in their quarterly earnings call, taking time to note developer success and their own wins peddling their latest Quest 2 VR headset.
One of the VR platform’s remaining quirks is a general lack of third-party support for apps that go beyond gaming. The headset is a powerful piece of hardware with few VR ports of mobile apps available, even available streaming apps from Hulu and Netflix have seen scant updates due to the relatively small number of headsets out there.
Facebook, a major app maker itself, has seemed to be playing a fairly delicate balancing act in bringing some of the mothership’s utility to the headset without alienating consumers who might be less interested in a clearly Facebook-branded piece of hardware. After mandating Facebook-login last fall it seems like most bets should be off there. Today, the company announced that Quest and Quest 2 users will now gain access to Messenger chats inside the app, enabling users to fire off a quick canned message to friends, use the in-VR keyboard to pound out a quick message, or use the headset’s voice-to-text feature.
For those upset about Facebook’s increasingly heavy-handed software presence on their VR platform, this will likely be another reason to avoid the Quest 2, but for those eager to make their VR gameplay a more social experience or avoid the total isolation that comes from strapping a headset on and ignoring your phone, it will be much more welcome.
Alongside, the Messenger update, Facebook also shared that with the new update, they will be rolling out what they call App Lab, essentially a TestFlight-like feature to allow Quest users to download content outside of the curated Oculus Store. It’s a feature meant to address develop complaints that Facebook has boxed fledgling game designers out from bringing content to the Quest. Users can search for the title by name in App Lab or click a link to be directed to the title. The new feature competed directly with SideQuest, a startup that has been building a hub for more experimental Quest content.
Facebook says that the new update is rolling out “gradually” to users so not all users may see the update immediately.