Facebook is adding 2D apps from third-party developers to its Oculus Quest virtual reality platform. The new feature is aimed at giving people more tools to work in VR using the Progressive Web App (PWA) framework. It’s starting with Facebook, Instagram, collaboration app Smartsheet, and email client Spike, then adding Dropbox, Monday.com, Mural, My5, Pluto TV, and Slack in the future.
Oculus has supported a 2D browser (which opens as a flat window in virtual space) for some time, and you could sideload 2D apps on the Quest, which runs a version of Android. Some Oculus apps also blur the line between VR and 2D apps: Horizon Workrooms, for instance, will support Zoom calls in the future. Facebook Messenger launched on Quest earlier this year. This update marks a larger-scale rollout of non-VR apps inside the headset. The PWA-based framework means developers don’t need to build fully custom VR versions of an app, although it looks like they’ll still need to go through the normal Oculus developer channels.
These 2D apps are launching on the Oculus Store alongside a larger revamp of Facebook’s VR work strategy. Where earlier Oculus Quest business headsets were a distinct product, Facebook is now introducing a suite of apps called Quest for Business that will run on ordinary Quest hardware. This means companies can use Quest headsets to run consumer-focused apps as well, while users will log in with a new system called Work Accounts that’s administered by businesses instead of a personal Facebook account. Corporate IT departments will be able to manage the devices remotely, with support for Microsoft Intune, VMware Workspace ONE, and Ivanti UEM.
Facebook will begin testing Quest for Business and Work Accounts in a closed beta later this year, aiming to launch a full version in 2023. It will wind down the existing Oculus for Business program later this year.
Work is a key part of Facebook’s vision for a VR and AR-oriented “metaverse” internet. While much of that involves creating a sense that you’re physically in a workspace with your colleagues, it also requires incorporating the tools people already use — even if they’re in 2D.