The latest version of the Unity game engine—which is the basis for the vast majority of XR games made today—is now available to developers as a preview. Unity 6 Preview includes new features to make XR development easier, including ‘Composition Layers’ which can significantly increase the quality of text, UI, photos, and videos in XR.

Unity 6 Preview (formerly known as 2023.3 Tech Stream) is now available for developers to experiment with. The upgraded engine includes a range of improvements for XR development.

Foveated Rendering

First is the built-in Foveated Rendering API. This allows developers to reduce the resolution of the view only in the users peripheral vision, improving rendering performance without impacting the quality of the image at the center of the user’s view. Unity’s Foveated Rendering API also supports eye-tracked foveated rendering for headsets like Quest Pro and PSVR 2. This allows the system to maintain high resolution rendering no matter where the user turns their eyes, while reducing the resolution in their periphery for improved performance. 

Unity says the Foveated Rendering API is compatible with the requisite PSVR 2 and Oculus XR plugins, but it will also support OpenXR “soon.”

Composition Layers for High Quality Textures

Unity 6 Preview also adds a new feature called Composition Layers (also known as Compositor Layers or Timewarp Layers) which is a technique for rendering textures into XR applications with the highest possible quality.

XR apps are typically rendered by drawing a complete frame, then taking that frame and distorting it to account for the way the headset’s lenses warp the image. This two step process means anything in the scene is sampled twice (sort of like taking a picture of a picture) which necessarily reduces the quality of the final output.

Without Composition Layers | Image courtesy Meta

Composition Layers in Unity 6 Preview allows developers to render textures in a special way that draws and distorts at the same time, avoiding the double-sampling problem which would otherwise reduce the texture’s final quality.

With Composition Layers | Image courtesy Meta

This is especially useful for flat textures like UI, text, crosshairs, and maps which are where the double-sampling blur tends to be particularly noticeable. It’s also useful for rendering photos and videos in XR at the highest possible quality.

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This functionality has existed for many years, but has been stuck in platform-specific implementations, making it a pain for developers to deal with, especially for cross-platform development. Now with Composition Layers built directly into Unity 6 Preview, it should be much easier for developers to use the feature to sharpen key textures in their game in a way that works across all supported headsets.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • 6.
    Like the number of sides of the dice you roll any time you make something in it, that randomly decide how much profit you’ll make, and how much you’ll own them in license fees.

  • As a dev, let me stress for you the importance of this: these features were already available on Meta SDK since ages, but there was not an easy way to make them in a crossplatform way. One of the things that Unity is making easy for us is developing a VR experience once and being able to deploy it on all devices with minimal modifications.This lets us distribute on multiple platforms (e.g. Quest, Steam, Pico), increasing our earnings, but at a low production cost. Big kudos to Unity for that.