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.
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.”
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.