Oculus’ App Lab offers a new way to try early access VR apps without sideloading

Oculus has detailed what’s coming in its v25 software update for Quest and Quest 2 headsets. The most notable change for both developers and users is App Lab, a new method for distributing in-development VR apps that doesn’t require Oculus Store approval and also doesn’t require sideloading. Think of this software as the equivalent of early access for VR.

Oculus shared in its press release that it wants to keep the bar for quality high for its store, so it’s splintering off App Lab apps from its main storefront. But it wants to foster a community where developers can openly and easily share their in-progress creations with Quest owners.

After a developer submits their App Lab app to Oculus, users can access it easily through a URL, or they can be found by searching for their exact name in the Oculus Store. SideQuest, a popular site that hosts applications and games that can be sideloaded onto the Quest headset, will also host App Lab apps. Presumably, many of the apps and games hosted there might soon get App Lab support, making it easier for people to try some of the experiences hosted there without sideloading.

App Lab grants developers the ability to broadly open their apps up to the general public to try or to generate unique keys if you want to only allow certain people to access them. And from the user’s perspective, any App Labs apps you download can be found in your Quest library of apps and games.

These apps have debuted on App Lab.
Image: Oculus

Oculus says that over 10 App Lab titles have launched, including the experiences pictured above. Though, the site presented an error when I clicked them at the time of publishing.

Several other features are coming in this update, including Messenger for VR, allowing you to keep Facebook chats going while you’re immersed in your Quest headset. The Oculus release notes also mention “Stationary Guardian 2.0,” bringing some more quality-of-life improvements for when you want to safely use VR while in a stationary location instead of using roomscale.

Whether you use VR software in roomscale or stationary mode, Oculus’ Passthrough shortcut is now easier to access and no longer buried in its experiments settings. The feature allows you to see your surroundings through the Quest or Quest 2’s outward-facing cameras by double-tapping the section where the headband meets the headset.

In case you’ve ever wanted to pair a Bluetooth mouse to your Quest headset, you’ll soon be able to do that, too. To find this feature, head to settings, click “Experimental Features,” and you should find it there soon.

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