Facebook has made good on a promise to release an unlocked OS build for its discontinued Oculus Go headset which will allow it to be modified beyond what was originally possible with the device.

Update (October 22, 2021: Facebook this week released the unlocked OS build for Oculus Go, its now discontinued standalone VR headset. With the headset unlocked, users can gain root access to the software underlying the device, essentially providing total control over how it works and what runs on it.

For regular users, this doesn’t mean much, but the unlocked OS build makes it possible for developers to make modifications to the headset which could allow it to do things it never used to be able to. In the future, those modifications could be distributed to allow others to install the same functionality.

What kind of mod scene will or won’t evolve around the unlocked headset isn’t clear at this time, but at a minimum it means the device can continue to be used and improved by those willing well into the future.

The original article, which covered the initial announcement of the unlocked Oculus Go build, continues below.

Original Article (September 30th, 2021): John Carmack, part-time CTO of Oculus, says in a recent tweet that users can expect to gain root access “soon,” which will be made available via an unlocked OS build for the Oculus Go headset that can be side loaded. Oculus Go was the company’s last 3DOF headset before transitioning to the Oculus Quest platform in 2019, which offers full room-scale movement in a similar standalone package.

Providing root access will allow Oculus Go users to take control of the headset’s kernel, which will technically allow for a host of things like overclocking (and underclocking) its CPU and GPU, and fully backing up, restoring, or batch-editing applications.

Photo by Road to VR

In essence, it’s a way of making sure the hardware is useful for years to come despite being technically surpassed, Carmack says.

“This opens up the ability to repurpose the hardware for more things today, and means that a randomly discovered shrink wrapped headset twenty years from now will be able to update to the final software version, long after over-the-air update servers have been shut down.”

When asked about his thoughts on doing a similar unlock for Oculus Quest at some point in the future, Carmack said this:

“I hope this is a precedent for when headsets go unsupported in the future, but damn, getting all the necessary permissions for this involved SO much more effort that you would expect.”

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Pushing authorization through to finally unlock Go apparently wasn’t an issue with Facebook’s legal team, Carmack says.

“Legal wasn’t problematic — FB lawyers are surprisingly cool about a lot of efforts that you might expect pushback on.”

So much may not be true with Quest hardware though, as the platform is likely to continue on with what could be the alleged launch of Oculus Quest Pro soon, which would suggest a continuation of backwards compatibility with Quest software, and an increased lifespan of the headset’s unique Android-based OS.

The fight to unlock Oculus Quest has seen its own controversy since the headset’s launch of Quest 2 in 2020. The introduction of forced Facebook logins for all Oculus devices moving forward has created added incentive for jailbreaking teams to try their hand at unlocking the company’s flagship VR headset.

A high-profile Quest 2 jailbreaking team claimed success only a few months after launch, and was later openly discredited by an alleged co-conspirator. It’s still not clear what’s happened with the jailbreak; it hasn’t materialized yet.

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  • JakeDunnegan

    Oh good! So all those people who got the Oculus Go (all 12 of them) can have root access! SUHWEET!

    • Andrew Jakobs

      I know that a tour in a brewer factory already had more than 12 units..

      • JakeDunnegan

        Good lord, it’s called sarcasm. Ever heard of the Internet? It’s all over the place on there.

      • Caven

        Ok, so one person at a brewery bought more than a dozen units.

        That’s one person down, 11 to go…

        ;)

    • Sven Viking

      iirc Go sold better than Rift.

      • JakeDunnegan

        It basically had a two year shelf life. Sales start in 5/18 and announced ending of sales was in 6/20. No new apps as of 12/20.

        It definitely benefited from a low pricepoint ($200). But, to your point, sales figures aren’t really released by FB, not that I can find. It’s also kind of hard to compare Rift to Go, as the Rift was quite a bit more expensive than Go. Best I can find is that the Go overall sold around 2M units.

        A major complaint I have against FB is that they abandon their hardware stupidly quick. Between the launch of the Quest and the Quest 2, it was less than 2 years, which is insane. Platforms like Xbox and Playstation (which cost around the same) have vastly longer shelf lifes.

        Which, was really more what I was thinking of when I said that. I should have said, “those people who HAVE the Oculus Go…” etc. As I had to point out to Mr. Jakobs below, I was being sarcastic about the actual numbers, but I actually feel a bit sorry for the folks who got the Go and then were abandoned so quickly (or forced to upgrade) by Mr. Zuckerburg.

        • Sven Viking

          Yeah, agreed on abandoning hardware. Stopping sales is one thing but they could at least have kept the store open for developers who wanted to support it. Meanwhile Rift S could have used a few extra firmware updates and Rift CV1 could have used another run of proprietary cable replacements.

        • Anonymous

          VR hardware evolves so quickly it isn’t exactly fair to compare TV consoles to it which is relatively fixed and now a commodity. VR user base is still mostly early adopters who demand stronger hardware and more novel features every year, making it impossible to stick to a 5-year cycle like consoles. A near-2 years gap between Qst1 and 2 is frankly already quite well done. Also the speculated upcoming Qst 2 Pro is probably similar to relationship between PS4 and PS4 Pro, not completely replacing old ones.

          I do agree that longer term dev support is always welcomed tho.

          • Arno van Wingerde

            2 years is short, but I fully agree with the previous writer that the progress is simply that fast. I agree there seems no need to close the Go store, just because something a lot better came along.
            However, I would be delighted if an improved Quest3/4/5 would show up – and happily buy one if I saw a major advantage to doing so! The Quest1 seems not abandoned, just cannot run all the games. I do not understand why people complain about that: should we limit today’s games for yesterday’s hardware or just get as many games to as many headsets – each pushed to their limits – and not release them for hardware that cannot run it properly?

          • On the topic of closing the Go store, I am so so annoyed that you can’t just buy and run every single GearVR/Go game on the Quest 1 and 2. From my vantage point of the technical details there is literally no reason why this cannot happen with next to zero effort, other than Oculus not wanting to keep titles on the store that make outdated references to the GearVR d-pad (even though those controls would still map to a Quest controller fine from an input layer standpoint). This half-measure of “we approved a curated subset of like 30 games you can still buy and play on Quest” is laaaaaaame lame lame.

    • Eh, the Go sold around a couple million units, apparently: “In January 2019, market analysis firm SuperData estimated that over a million Oculus Go units had been sold since the device’s launch, and in July 2019 the firm estimated over two million units had been sold.” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oculus_Go

  • Ad

    Someone make it a SteamVR headset native.

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    • kontis

      That’s impossible on hardware level.

      • Ad

        Hmm… I just want to stick a tundra tracker on it, use knuckles and ideally use the steamVR compositor.

  • guest

    And how do all those GearVR developers recoup their investment on a rooted device?

  • This is really good news. I’m really stoked that this is the ultimate fate of the Go, as I’m still very upset at how abruptly they killed support for it. Problematic and insufficient as it may be, the immersive 3DOF space covers the vast majority of the public’s understanding of what is possible in virtual reality. And it’s a really rich space for gameplay that is seriously under-explored. Yes it’s a simpler product, but it is a viable one long-term unlike the GearVR which did not provide a 1.0-level experience. Not a ton of good news coming out of Oculus lately, so props to Carmack for making this happen. It’s the right thing to do.

    • To this day, I would pay for a 3DOF headset with higher resolution, frame rate, battery life, and heat management over the Go. But it’s great that the cheapo price bracket has a product that is actually good. I would pay mid-tier (as in, Quest’s heavily-subsidized price range like $300-$600) for a super Go, basically.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        You might want to check out some of the chinese headsets on aliexpress if all you care about is 3DOF…

    • Resident Evil 4 VR was some amazingly good new that came out of Oculus lately, and it’s frikin’ awesome.

  • Mk.82

    If quest 2 would have not required Facebook account like Facebook promised when they bought Oculus, I would have bought three units already and I know that seven would have gotten bought in my close circle.

    But Facebook just was not ready to just lock the Facebook social circles out and allow use without Facebook account. So if products don’t support that from the launch, then others will win.

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    • Andrew Jakobs

      Oh please stop bitching about that. The promise was made by lucky in regard to the Rift headset, not for any new product like the Quest.

      • Ganascus

        It remains a big issue for VR enthousiasts safeguarding their privacy so calling that ‘bitching’ is rather unrespectfull.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          The original oculus account was also already connected to facebook services/account, so you really think it makes any real difference?
          It’s not unrespectfull if they keep complaining about some promise which was made years ago for a specific headset, he could never promise it for any new headsets. And let’s face it, the Quest isn’t made by Oculus, but by Facebook, Oculus isn’t a company anymore, only a brandname, just like Vive is a brandname for HTC, Oculus is a brandname for Facebook.

      • Ior1yagami

        And this right here is an prime example of how coorporations get to overstep to a gross degree – inch by inch, year by year. All they have to do is wait until enough people think it’s old news and do their job for them by spouting lines like “quit bitching” or “get over it”. Happens all the time.

        No. The facebook requirement stinks. We still don’t like it, we’re going to keep talking about it, and that is the end of the matter. So please stop bitching about that!

  • Till Eulenspiegel

    So all the Oculus Go’s games and apps are free now?

  • Since you abandoned the Rift headsets too at this point, then why not offer this option on those also?

    Now that would be meaningful.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      uhh, why would the rift headset need a firmware to unlock it, it’s not a standalone headset like the Go is with it’s own OS.. The Rift headsets can run any software you want as it’s limited by what’s available on the PC.

      • From what I hear this is about more than just letting you run whatever on it but officially and legally being able to do anything with it you want going forward, which is great for really diving into how everything works and maybe even doing something entirely different with it. If that was similarly the case with Rift, officially, I think that would be very cool indeed and potentially open up the headset to even more innovation and the like. But maybe I’m not interpreting what they’ve allowing here properly.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          No, all this firmware for the Go does, is unlock the bootloader, which makes is possible to install other firmwares, and unlock the checks on the ‘executables’ which makes it possible to run any software you like. The Rift doesn’t have both, if you really like you already can do whatever you want with it, BUT it requires knowledge on writing software that can take advantage of the hardware.. Just like it’s nice to be able to run any firmware/software you want with the Go, but if noone is writing it for you, you won’t be able to do anything with it. So it’s mostly interesting to people who can/like to write software for the Go, but if there aren’t many out there to do it, as a novice you still can’t do shit with it other then what you already could when the bootloader was still locked.
          With the Rift, there is no bootloader of any software locking mechanisme on the headset itself, so if you would like to, you can directly program the headset from windows, circumventing the OculusSDK on the PC, but it requires knowledge and dedication to write ones own SDK, and for what? You can already use the Rift with SteamVR/OpenVR/Oculus Store..

  • Lang Ngo

    This is great, the Oculus Go browser for some reason seems bigger than the oculus quest 2 browser. And I tried using the quest 2 for watching movies while lying down, but it’s not possible to reset the orientation.

    WIth the oculus go, you can lie down and watch movies if you reset the orientation no problem, and its what I use almost every day.

  • oomph2

    yes yes
    Make it a wearable PC