A couple of months ago during the Oculus Connect 5 development conference the latest standalone virtual reality (VR) headset was announced. Despite the publicity surrounding the announcement of the Oculus Quest, for many customers and developers, there is still little information available on how locked down the Oculus Quest will be. Some industry leaders have now raised some concerns over this.
So far, it has not been made clear how easy it will be for the average Oculus Quest user to load up software that doesn’t come directly from the Oculus Store, a process known as ‘sideloading’.
The Oculus Quest, similar to the Oculus Go, runs on an Android operating system with the Oculus Software loaded on top. For most Android devices, its possible to use a developer mode to install APK files, which can run software that doesn’t come from an approved storefront.
For developers, they have even more access to run unfinished and beta versions of software, or modify or even turn off certain functions and features for testing and development. Even here, some things are protected from developer interference for safety or privacy reasons.
The issue is that the methods used by developers for testing can also be used by enthusiasts to test unapproved apps, creating a conflict between the desire for Facebook and Oculus to preserve the integrity of their system and the desire for users to install homebrew or unapproved applications.
“It’s an existential crisis for us to make sure we get data handling right,” said Max Cohen, head of product for the Oculus Platform, during a phone interview at the time. Jenny Hall, who leads privacy programs for the Oculus legal team, also said “privacy is something that we need the entire community of think about, we can’t just fix it or think about it on our own.”
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney was sharply critical of the idea of locking down the storefront, saying on Twitter: “A permission-based security model like iOS and Android is the first and strongest line of protection. Locked-down stores do nothing significant to prevent malware; that’s just the old excuse they use to justify their monopoly on digital distribution and commerce.”
For future coverage of developments in VR, keep checking back with VRFocus.