#759: Oculus Quest, Privacy, & Facebook’s Walled Garden: A Discussion with Oculus’ Director of Content Ecosystem

The Oculus Quest is a gamechanger for the VR industry as the inside-out tracking is an engineering marvel, & the untethered experience lowers the friction for being to easy jump into VR. My biggest hesitations with the Quest have more to do with my open questions around Facebook’s approach towards privacy and Facebook’s AR/VR strategy of turning the Quest platform into more of a closed, walled garden ecosystem with tighter curation policies.

chris-pruettI had a chance to talk with Oculus’ Director of Content Strategy Chris Pruett at F8 where I asked him about the new curation policies for the Quest, which he defended as being par for course for any app store ecosystem and other consoles like Sony.


Oculus is being a lot more selective as to which titles make it onto the Quest because they’re trying to reduce the paradox of choice on the store for new consumers by focusing on high-quality games with more polish. They’d rather have developers focus on getting accepted by the gatekeepers of Oculus than having to worry about advertising in the midst of an overwhelming amount of low-quality applications. Maybe Facebook learned some lessons from the Oculus Go launch featuring over 1000 applications whereas the Quest will only be launching with just over 50 applications with a slow release of titles over time.

This will be great news for any developer who happens to get accepted by Oculus, but will likely make it a lot harder for smaller solo indie devs to get experimental content onto the Quest. Pruett emphasized that the Rift S and Go will still be a more open and democratic submission process, but these platforms have completely different design affordances, and the Quest offers completely new gameplay capabilities that aren’t possible on other platform. Pruett confirmed that it will be possible to sideload content on the Quest, but this may not be a viable distribution alternative for developers who don’t get officially accepted onto the Quest.

The Oculus Quest also seems to be heavily biased towards gaming and there’s going to be less diversity of content on it than is available on other platforms. It also increases the chance that Oculus will completely miss emerging trends within gaming or within non-gaming and non-entertainment areas. There were predecessors to Beat Saber like Soundboxing which were rejected from the Oculus Home store, and yet it’s a similar type of embodied gameplay of Beat Saber but with a lot less polish.

Pruett claims that no one could have ever predicted how popular Beat Saber would be (check out my thoughts on Beat Saber on the day it launched), but yet Oculus seemed to be focused a lot more on aesthetic fidelity and visual polish over the types of embodied gameplay innovations that were coming from games like Soundboxing, which was one of the rhythm game predecessors to the international phenomenon of Beat Saber. How many other future Beat Saber type of breakthroughs will be missed because these innovations won’t be able to be captured within a concept document pitch or that the curators won’t understand the fundamental experiential design innovations of something that’s never been done before?

The Quest marks a strategic shift towards a more closed, walled garden ecosystem, and while I can understand that this will likely provide a better short-term experience for both the accepted developers and a critical mass of a mainstream gaming audience, there are bigger concerns of how this represents a move away from having VR as an open platform. No one company should own VR as a communications medium, and this focus on closed, walled garden ecosystems is copying the app store business models of Apple and Google and applying to VR. Internet go through apps has been a devastating blow to the principles of the open web, and within the next five to ten years then I’d hope that we will have a lot more open hardware and software ecosystem alternatives. Perhaps WebXR will be one open alternative, and Pruett did emphasizes the support of WebXR through the Oculus Browser, which is shipping on the Quest. But it’s also an open question for how much the Quest will be supporting the OpenXR standard or if that will only apply to PC-based VR systems like the Rift S.

My other big concern about Facebook is around privacy. I didn’t have an opportunity to talk to anyone at Facebook during F8 about my open questions on privacy as it was a pretty huge emphasis. There were a lot of top-down pronouncements made during F8, and not as many embodied actions from the ground-up to provide evidence that there will be any deeply meaningful change around Facebook’s underlying philosophy of privacy.

Part of the focus on privacy may have been more for PR and investors as Facebook was just hit by a Federal Trade Commission fine of up to $5 billion dollars for violating their 2011 F.T.C. consent decree settlement.

But Mark Zuckerberg came out at F8 and declared that the future is private. Facebook talked a lot about the privacy of the content of written communication, but I have many open questions around Facebook’s philosophy on biometric data privacy, especially when you take a look at Facebook’s patents on detecting your emotion, facial expressions, and mood that may or may not be already be deployed today on any mobile app where you’ve granted Facebook permission to use your camera. There’s no obligation for Facebook to disclose that they’re secretly recording our emotions as we look at content, and anyone who has agreed to their privacy policy has consented for them to do it.

But F8 showed me that Facebook has a very narrow definition for what they mean by “privacy,” where they seemed to focus primarily on the content of interpersonal communications. But Facebook didn’t announce a completely new or different business model that moves away from surveillance capitalism. They didn’t announce any changes to their privacy policies for what they can and can not collect including “information about your online and offline actions and purchases from third-party data providers who have the rights to provide us with your information.”

There was a lot of emphasis on encrypting the content of written messages of video conferencing, but Facebook didn’t mention anything about not collecting metadata of who you’re talking with and when. Facebook didn’t say that they’re going to stop creating psychographic profiles about our values, preferences, hobbies, or interests. So while there were promising announcements about end-to-end encryption, there were many more questions unanswered around their embodied actions and historical behavior around privacy.

But because there isn’t a universally accepted or comprehensive philosophical framework around how to precisely define privacy, then it’s up to each company to come up with their own definition. Facebook’s definition of what they mean by “privacy” is extremely narrow. Facebook will likely be starting to more explicitly have to define their definition of privacy as a part of their settlement with the latest Federal Trade Commission fine where the New York Times reports that “Facebook has agreed to create a privacy committee to protect its users’ data, as well as an external assessor who would be appointed by the company and F.T.C.”

The idea of an independent review board for privacy was one of the biggest suggestions to come out of the VR Privacy Summit last fall, which you can check out the summary in this interview (as well as well over 20 interviews about privacy concerns for AR/VR.)

But my biggest concern is whether or not any of these F.T.C. auditors or other journalists are aware of the entirely new realm of biometric data privacy that is emerging with AR and VR. Facebook already holds a number of patents where they detail how they’re able to secretly turn on our cameras to extract our emotions as we’re looking at specific content on our mobile phones. Their plans are detailed in this really scary and somewhat dystopian patent for techniques for emotion detection and content delivery as first reported by CB Insights in 2017.


Here’s the passage of Facebook’s patent on harvesting emotions where they describe how they plan on secretly spy on you with “passive imaging information” from your front-facing camera “imaging component” in order to capture and record your emotional reaction to content.

Users of computing devices spend increasing amounts of time browsing streams of posts on social networks, news articles, video, audio, or other digital content. The amount of information available to users is also increasing. Thus, a need exists for delivering content a user that may be of current interest to them. For example, a user’s interests may be determined based upon their current emotional state. Computing devices such as laptops, mobile phones, and tablets increasingly include at least one, and often more than one, imaging component, such as a digital camera. Some devices may include a front-facing camera that is positioned on the same side of the device as a display. Thus, during normal operation, a user may be looking towards the imaging component. However, current content delivery systems typically do not utilize passive imaging information. Thus, a need exists for a content delivery solution that takes advantage of available passive imaging data to provide content to a user with improved relevancy.

I don’t know whether or not Facebook is actively using this patent to secretly harvest emotional reactions while you’re looking at content, but just the fact that Facebook is architecting a way to utilize this type of “passive imaging information” with your front-facing camera speaks to how valuable the new frontier of biometric data and emotional reactions correlated to the content you’re looking at is going to be. If this is what they’re doing on mobile phones, then just wait until the gold mine of biometric data is going to be unlocked with immersive technologies like virtual reality.

By the way, Facebook is not alone in wanting to harvest our emotions as Snapchat also aims to detect mood from selfies. Noah Levenson’s interactive AR documentary Stealing UR Feelings that premiered at Tribeca Immersive 2019 also covered how other companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, and other major companies are all trying to find ways of secretly harvesting our emotional reactions.

But my sense from listening to Facebook at F8 is that they’re trying to define privacy very narrowly as our explicit interpersonal communication that we consciously consent to, but they’re not talking about all of the levels of biometric data privacy for new levels of emotional input being made available with immersive technologies like VR/AR, mobile cameras, depth sensor cameras, and eventually in future immersive technologies that include biometric data from eye tracking information, galvanic skin response, emotional reactions, facial movements from EMG, heartrate from ECG, and eventually brainwaves from brain-control interfaces and EEG.

Facebook has yet to release any technology that has these more advanced biometric data sensors, but it’s definitely on their technological roadmap as they have shown plenty of demos to are able to extrapolate emotional reactions so that they can be depicted in virtual avatars.

Facebook hasn’t spoken specifically about their plans around how they plan on using biometric data to be able to capture and record our emotional reactions to content, and they often dodge questions about future potentials of biometric data capture by leaning on the fact that they haven’t released any hardware that can capture it yet.

But the way that Oculus’ privacy policy (as of September 2018) is written, then it’s ambiguous as to whether or not it’s already allows them to start recording, capturing, and using new biometric data streams as soon as they’re made available. I had an opportunity to talk with the architects of Oculus’ privacy policy last year, and they didn’t answer whether or not the privacy policy allowed them to capture and record biometric data.

A common strategy by Facebook is for them say that they’re not currently doing something that their privacy policy allows them to do. One example is in a Privacy Polity FAQ that was released with their GDPR privacy policy update last April where they said, “Is my Oculus data used to target ads to me on Facebook? We don’t share data with Facebook that would allow third parties to target advertisements based on your use of the Oculus Platform.”

But the Oculus privacy policy allows for all sorts of data to be passed back and forth between Oculus and Facebook.

Third parties may also collect information about you through the Services, as described below.

Related companies. Depending on which services you use, we receive information about you from other companies that are within the family of related companies that are legally part of the same group of companies that Oculus is part of, or that become part of that group, such as Facebook, and combine that information with other information we collect about you.

So their privacy policy allows them to share whatever they want between the two companies, and so if they wanted to start using information from Oculus to start targeting ads on Facebook, then they could start doing that today. Especially considering that the differentiation between Oculus as an independent entity and Facebook itself has all but functionally disappeared, which is reflected in the fact that the Oculus Privacy Policy was changed on September 4, 2018 to say “Oculus is brought to you by Facebook Technologies, LLC (formerly known as Oculus VR, LLC)” from what it said in the previous May 20th revision that “Oculus is brought to you by Oculus VR, LLC.”

Facebook would like us to think about privacy as a fixed object that once they say something, then it’s always true. But privacy is a process. Whatever the Oculus privacy architects told me about what they are and are not doing a year ago can not be assumed that it’s still the case today. It can change at any moment, and Facebook isn’t obligated to let anyone know what data is or is not being recorded at any moment. In the absence of having an updated status about what is and isn’t being recorded, then the only thing that consumers have is to be able to take a worst-case scenario interpretation of what is laid out in their privacy policy.

So while I’m genuinely really excited about the potential of the Quest as an inflection point in the overall adoption of virtual reality technologies, I think there are a lot of concerning open questions about Facebook’s recent pivot on their philosophy and strategy around privacy, and whether or not the Quest is always going to remain a closed platform and a highly-curated software ecosystem.

Mobile VR has the potential to become the dominant mode of experiencing virtual reality, and it’s a new paradigm communication medium that deserves to remain an open platform for innovation. There are no guarantees that Facebook will continue to always support PC VR as they’re already outsourcing the production of Rift S in collaboration with Lenovo, and if the Quest is wildly successful as a closed platform then Zuckerberg’s AR/VR strategic vision statement from 2015 may lead Facebook to move more towards closed, walled gardens rather than fostering open ecosystems.

My sense is that Oculus Quest will indeed be a vital next step in the evolution of virtual reality as a medium, but I still have many open questions about the future of open ecosystems and VR as an open platform as well as Facebook’s commitment to creating a truly private future that we all want to live in.

Facebook is going to have to do a lot more than make some grand proclamations at their F8 developer conference to really convince me that they’re honestly interested in the full complexity and naunce of privacy concerns. I’ll be watching their embodied actions and hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to ask them directly about their philosophy around the capturing and recording of biometric data that will be made available with immersive technologies.

For more information about my previous 20+ interviews about privacy in VR, then be sure to check out the interviews listed here.


Disclosure: Oculus provided the Voices of VR with a Quest headset.

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.412] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye and welcome to the Voices of VR podcast. So this past week was a lot of news within the virtual reality industry. The Facebook FVA conference was this past couple of days and Valve announced a new information about their Valve Index, which is going to be coming out in July, but it's a new high-end VR system that has what was formerly called the Knuckles controllers, where you'd be able to pick up and throw objects and Yeah, it seems like there's a whole new iteration of high-end VR. And then for the Quest, it's really like the best state-of-the-art mobile VR headset that's out there. I haven't seen anything that's even really all that close. At the Facebook F8 conference, Oculus was announcing the launch date for the Oculus Quest. It's coming out on May 21st, 2019. It's $399. I've had a review unit for the past week and had a chance to play around with it. Oculus sent me a unit to be able to look at and play some of the launch title games and it is really super impressive. I think this is an absolute game changer and they've just done an amazing job of creating a technological marvel. I mean it's really amazing and there's a lot of people that are super excited about it. A lot of the developers that are there at F8 got a free quest that they're going to be getting on May 21st which is when the quest is going to be coming out. And Beat Saber was the one that I was looking at in particular and I'm super happy with how it was holding up. I feel like anybody who's like a super hardcore Beat Saber player, I think there's gonna be certain things that you're gonna have to adjust in your play style, maybe just to kind of work within the limitations of the tracking volume. but I think overall it's still going to give you that essence of the Beat Saber experience and what I experienced at least was that I was kind of adapting to whatever the limitations of the technology were. It'll be interesting to see Beat Saber as a benchmark to see how it compares to other systems but in terms of like having a tether-free mobile experience I mean I'm just super impressed with what they were able to accomplish and to even have like the Expert Plus levels Even available I think is just to me a testament to the engineering capabilities of Facebook and what they were able to pull off If they were able to do that as a benchmark, I think then any other application they're gonna be able to do it's gonna be easy compared to Some of the challenges that they likely had to come up in order to do that level of tracking at that fidelity So they really dialed it in and I'm super happy with it super excited. It's gonna be an absolute game changer in the VR industry Now, the hesitation that I have is looking at Facebook as a holistic entity and to look at some of the deeper dynamics, what's really driving them. There's a lot of different ethical and moral issues that I think that have been coming up with Facebook as a company over the last couple of years. The FTC just fined Facebook $5 billion for these different violations for the FTC consent decree. A lot of the stuff in the wake of Cambridge Analytica, as well as various different privacy violations of. information that they've been collecting and then it getting into the wrong hands. So there's a huge focus at the Facebook F8 conference on privacy and there was a lot of things that were being spoken in terms of the future of private. Here's all the ways that Facebook is going to be specifically looking at privacy. So that was encouraging to hear that they have this newfound focus on privacy. However, it's a lot different to say something on stage at a keynote and another thing to actually embody a lot of those principles of privacy and being able to collaborate with different people within the industry that are really trying to serve that watchdog role on Facebook to see whether or not they're actually living up to a lot of what they're saying about privacy. So, from my sense, like, Facebook's definition of privacy is extremely small and narrow and limited, and there's so many other aspects of privacy that, as far as I can tell, are still the same. I mean, Facebook uses a model of aggregating all this data about our behavior across the web, and there's no indication that they're going to stop doing that. They said that, you know, individual communications between two people, like the content of that written communication is going to have an encryption, but what about the metadata of those communications? Like, are they still going to know that I talked to this person at this point in time and then still start to aggregate and store that data? That has a huge amount of social network graph analysis value that still could be mined. That could be enough to be able to understand so much about a lot of the interactions and dynamics of the people who were connected to and what that tells about us. So there's all sorts of other aspects of our biometric data and aspects of information that we're radiating from our bodies. If you look at some of the patents that Facebook has, you know, as you're looking at content on Instagram, because they have access to your phone, they could be potentially looking at your facial expressions to be able to correlate your emotions of how you're reacting to specific content as you're looking at it and be able to store and save all of this information about your biometric data and your emotions as you're looking at content. They have patents on that. Everything that is in their privacy policy allows them to do that. I'm not sure if they've said that they're doing that or if they are or are not doing that. They could be doing that at any moment from this point on into the future. So it's that type of level of like when they say privacy, well, where's the line? What do you mean? Because there's all sorts of things that you could potentially do theoretically and have the patents for, and the privacy policy allows them to do that. Are they making this shift away from written communication into this more embodied communication into this whole initiative with both AR and VR? Is this a new way for them to get access to a whole nother level of deep, intimate information about our biometric data and your emotions? So I have some open questions about that, and I would love to be able to sit down with somebody at Facebook to be able to unpack what it is that they have in terms of their patents that are on the public record as well as their business plans and their Model and what they mean by privacy, but it's a process It's something that's unfolding in it and whatever they could tell me at any moment that could change So I did do an interview with their privacy experts over a year ago But again, you would almost have to like check in with them like every day to see are you doing this yet? Are you doing this yet? Because there's no There's no obligation for them to disclose what their actual behavior is. So in some ways going to the VR Privacy Summit, one of the takeaways was we need an institutional review board that is doing these reviews and kind of checking in to these companies to do these audits to see whether or not they're kind of really living up to what would be considered to be a good standard practice for privacy. Maybe we need to go to that point where there are these institutional review boards to be able to do some checks on what the actual behavior is, but at this point there is no independent review board and we kind of have to leave it up to Facebook to define what they mean by privacy and hope that they have the best intent for being able to create these deeper business models that are going to be able to sustain their company. So that's my deep hesitation is, you know, having a little bit of ambiguity as to where that all is. And another one of the hesitations that I have is just of the future of Oculus and Facebook when it comes to whether or not they're going to be going down the path of creating this closed walled garden where they're completely owning the platform, or if they're going to go into cultivating these open ecosystems and open platforms. If you read the History of the Future by Blake Harris, there was a clear drive and initiative to close things down a lot more and to move more towards this app ecosystem, walled garden approach that a lot of companies are taking right now, whether it's the consoles with Sony or Apple. with their iTunes store or the Google play store, you know, any company that is having their own app ecosystem, they have standard business practices. And Facebook seems to be pointing to those other companies and saying, yeah, this is what other people are doing. So this is what we're going to be doing now as well. And I guess my hesitation is, is that the world that we want to create for the full potential of both AR and VR is to have these fractured walled garden ecosystems. And what about the open web or what about these open ecosystems? And so I actually had a chance to talk to their director of their content ecosystem, Chris Pruitt, who is in charge of helping to create all the various different experiences that are going to be released on the Oculus Quest. And they've actually have this new policy at Oculus where they have a new process, a new increased quality bar. You have to submit a concept document. And then in a lot of ways, Oculus is going to be a lot more selective for what ends up ending up on the Oculus Quest. And they still have the Oculus Go and the Oculus Rift, which is, I think, going to be a little bit more open in their process. Like that submission process is not going to change. However, with the Oculus Quest, they're having a lot more smaller selection of titles, which means that those companies that are able to jump through all those hoops and meet the quality bar that they're looking for are going to be the big winners. Whereas a lot of other independent developers may have a little bit harder time of getting first party support access to the Oculus Quest as a distribution platform. So I talked to Chris Pruitt about that and the different trade-offs and why they're doing that and to just talk about some of the new design affordances that come with the Oculus Quest. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Chris happened on Tuesday, April 30th, 2019 at Facebook's F8 Developer Conference in San Jose, California. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:09:18.417] Chris Pruett: So my name is Chris Pruitt. My official title is Director of Content Ecosystem at Oculus, which is kind of a fancy word for saying I work with our third-party content program, which is mostly the developers that we work with directly that are building stuff for all of our devices, as well as the sort of community of developers that we may not interact with directly, but we're writing documentation for, we're providing forums, and other things like that. So basically, the third-party developer community and support for those folks is what my group does.

[00:09:46.019] Kent Bye: Great, so we just had today the announcement of the launch date of Oculus Quest of May 21st. I've had a chance to play around with it for the past week or so and yeah, I'm super impressed with the tracking and I play quite a lot of Beat Saber and I'm quite happy with how it feels. I feel like one experience that I had that I want to ask about is I would set up a boundary and then sometimes I would feel like I was in the middle and with plenty of space and when I'm swinging it would sort of trigger the guardian logic and then I was like well do I need to make this space arbitrarily bigger because it's sort of triggering something but this sounds like that if this is an issue that it could be fixed with software but I'm just curious if other people have

[00:10:28.672] Chris Pruett: Run into this of feeling like you have plenty of space, but then having like almost an overly protective Guardian system I mean, I don't know if I've heard anybody else say it exactly like talk about the thing you're talking about But I think that we do err on the side of safety the Guardian system on quest will Estimate your motion as you're moving around and if it thinks that you know you might be headed towards a barrier It's gonna show up and show you But that said, general experience that I've had has been that it's quiet while you're not near your boundaries. I'd also say that this is all software, and we are pretty happy with where it is for launch, but there will, of course, be ongoing improvements.

[00:11:05.493] Kent Bye: It may be the Expert Plus levels on Beat Saber that have quite a high velocity and dancing around, which maybe for any other use case would trigger. It seems like Beat Saber itself as an entity is really a good stress test for tracking. Is that something that you used as a bit of a benchmark to see how well the tracking was working?

[00:11:26.344] Chris Pruett: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we have a number of very dedicated Beat Saber players within Oculus. And yeah, you know, those folks have been sort of critical components of our tuning of the tracking system, as well as Beat Games folks, you know, being able to provide basically a rock-solid base to compare to our own platforms, to other platforms, to see how our tracking is holding up. I agree with you that it is a great stress test for tracking. And also, yeah, in Expert Plus, you're moving pretty fast.

[00:11:57.201] Kent Bye: Yeah, I know that the SteamVR had to actually update the sampling frequency because they thought that hit a limit that was beyond human capacity and that there's people in Beat Saber that were like showing them they needed to update it. But it feels like that, that for me was the biggest stress test that I wanted to give, put the Oculus Quest through its paces. But the other thing that I would say is that they showed a video of John Carmack playing Beat Saber. No offense to John Carmack, but he's not dancing or moving his head around like I do when I played Beat Saber. And so there's a bit of like an additional stress test that if you are moving your head around or dancing and moving your full body, then because the reference is coming from the tracking of the headset, that is going to then perhaps have different levels of occlusion. Now when I play Beat Saber at home, there's certain elements where I can reach behind my back and play. And there's certain blind spot occluded moves that I can no longer do with a quest. That seemed to be like the stress test. And I think there's a certain amount of just needing to adapt my play style. And then once I adapt my play style, then it's like, okay, these are the rules for this system. I felt like after playing it for a while I was able to adjust to what the limitations of the system were but I did find that there was these little blind spots that happen with some mechanics either in Beat Saber where you're trying to like reach behind your head and still hit a block while it would normally in the normal version still be available or something like maybe pulling bows and arrows and stuff. That's a mechanic in some experiences where they might have to change that a little bit. But yeah, I'm just curious to hear how you make sense of these blind spots because it's all relative to the head and how to design around them.

[00:13:34.501] Chris Pruett: Sure. So for Beat Saber in particular, John's a really good player. I'm a pretty good Beat Saber player, but John's got me beat on our internal leaderboards. But we have folks in our groups from all sorts of other parts of the organization who turn out to be, you know, world-class Beat Saber players. And what we did is we got them in and we said, let's see what you can do. And they play all different types of styles. We have folks that are basically standing in place and trying to maximize the size of their swing in order to maximize the point value that you get per block, as well as folks that are just sort of like all over the place, moving around, stepping left and right, like lots of different styles, but all at sort of high velocity, at high level of skill. And once those folks were able to play and feel pretty good about it, we thought we had something special. But to answer your question about the tracking in particular, there are of course areas where, you know, you're not gonna be in view of the sensors, or you're in partial view of the sensors, or you're slightly occluded view of the sensors, or there's somehow tracking is degraded. And in those cases, we make an estimation about where your hand is. Because it turns out we have a bunch of other sensors other than just the LEDs on the controllers that we're watching. We have IMU data. We have all kinds of other data coming in at different frequencies that we can continue to track. And we can make a pretty good estimation. For things like a bow and arrow use case, we actually think about that particular use case and make an estimation specifically for that sort of use case. So hopefully, developers won't have to make any particular accommodation. I will say that there are limitations to tracking volumes on any sort of inside-out system. And I think what developers will do as they start to build for Quest, as well as for other platforms out there, is they'll just sort of take this into account. Because we don't think in our estimation of the sort of Rift software library out there, and also things we think people are going to build with Quest in the future, we don't think the tracking volume we have is going to limit them in any real way.

[00:15:17.398] Kent Bye: I did have like a phenomenological experience that was different between different experiences. So Beat Saber, I was totally fine playing it. And other experiences like the Angry Birds experience or Sports Scramble, I started to have a little like slight headache. And I think it might have been like emotion sickness related. And I think the reason might be I don't know what the reason might be. I have to do more testing and see what is going on. I think in Bait Saber, I'm actually like moving in my head. It's like giving some movement to my part of my inner ear that as the liquid is moving up and down, it's giving me a sense of like things are moving in that the world is matching that. enough to the point where I'm not having any disconnect, but there was a little bit of just a headache, like a strain headache. I don't know if it's eye strain or what it was. Yeah, it's difficult to pin down. I have to play it for a lot longer. I've only had it for a week or so for me to really try to pin down what might be happening there.

[00:16:09.428] Chris Pruett: Yeah, I mean, I couldn't guess. The software that you're talking about, Angry Birds, has been through quite a bit of both folks playing and also proper QA. It's not something that I'm aware of that's popped up. But the other thing that is interesting about VR is reactions are super individual. So the super interesting thing about 6DOF versus a 3DOF system is that your head never really actually stops moving. Your head's always moving. Your vestibular system, which is the system of your inner ear, which is keeping you balanced, is communicating that you are balanced, is being corroborated constantly by what your eyes are seeing. And even if you think you're sort of keeping your head still, you're actually constantly moving and that data is actually constantly being fed to your brain. On a 3DOF system we can approximate it with just sort of orientation information, but on a 6DOF system we can actually reproduce it. As long as our latency is low and the fidelity is high, we can reproduce it in a way that you should be able to accept. Like I said, it's extremely individual. But it's the reason that putting on a headset and walking virtually across a room feels so much better than sort of driving there virtually. Even if you have, like I have very low, I don't, nothing makes me feel bad. Like I have very high tolerance for everything. But I would much prefer to walk across the space physically than to drive across it with a joystick. And that's because we're matching your vestibular system to your visual system when you're moving your head.

[00:17:24.293] Kent Bye: Yeah, and there is the Oculus browser as well. And I was able to go in and go into a social hubs and move around. And so maybe talk a bit about what features are on the Oculus browser and what that is going to be able to enable you to do. Because it sounds like there's a whole process for getting apps within the store. But if you want to have people have maybe a little trailer and experience, there's WebVR that people still have access to.

[00:17:49.775] Chris Pruett: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we've been developing a WebVR-focused browser for a number of years. This is the same browser that ships on Go. It's got improvements and some performance improvements and some new features, but for the most part, it is the same sort of browser that we've been shipping on our standalone devices for quite a while. I think that WebVR is super interesting as a way to do experimentation in VR generally, not necessarily just for video games, but for all kinds of other stuff. I've seen museum experiences that are super interesting that are built out of WebVR, and that's the type of thing that the experience itself is like fairly simple, but what it requires is sort of high-resolution input data, like in the museum's case, they have high-resolution scans of some of the pieces that they have in their collection. And a museum is unlikely to go out and learn Unity and build a full-fledged VR experience. And if they did do that, and it was really cool, we would totally be interested in putting it on our store. But generally speaking, that is not the core competency of somebody like a museum. They could go hire somebody to do it, but that's pretty expensive. The nice thing about WebVR is it gives folks like that a way to pretty easily and cheaply build a short form or sort of small scope experience. I say that we still have quite a ways to go on fidelity, like it's early days for WebVR, so the ease of use is pretty high and the ability to get in quickly with just like a URL is really great. The upper bound for fidelity is fairly low, so there's a lot of work still to do there, but it's something we continue to invest in.

[00:19:14.001] Kent Bye: Well, there was an announcement recently of a change in process for submitting projects to be onto the store. Maybe you could give a brief overview as to what has changed and why has it changed.

[00:19:25.364] Chris Pruett: Sure. So in the past, the way that we've operated our store is we would basically be very much like most other app stores, where you'd submit your application to us at the end of the process. Like you've built your application, you want to submit it to us, and then we would have a human review it. If it passed that review, then we would put it on our store. And our bar for passing reviews is not particularly high. We're looking for things that don't crash, things that aren't outside of our content policy. That has been the process for Go and Rift, and it continues to be the process for Go and Rift. What we are doing on Quest is we're actually asking developers to submit to us a concept document significantly earlier in the process. And this is what many game consoles do. It's a pretty standard approach for a lot of stores. In fact, for most of its history, Steam had some version of this as well. But we're asking for folks just to talk to us about their title early in development, and our goal is twofold there. One is that if we see something that looks really cool that we want to support, we want to get in and be able to help the developer really early. We found is at the end of the process, if we have feedback or we want to You may even apply resources to make something better. If it's the end of the project, it's very difficult for us to actually inflect the overall quality of the thing because it's mostly done. It's mostly built. If we can get in earlier and start working with that developer directly, we can maybe make the thing bigger and more exciting and higher quality than it would have otherwise been. And we also want to make sure that the stuff that we're getting into the store is super high quality. Like, that doesn't mean we're looking for a narrow band of genres, or that we're only looking for sort of high-end AAA publisher things. Like, if you look at our launch lineup, nearly everything in our store is from an independent developer. My background is running an independent game developer, right? Like, I'm looking for super weird niche stuff, but I'm looking for super weird niche stuff that's high quality and has depth and has meat on the bone, right? We're not looking for tech demos. And for those folks who think that they've made, like, a really cool tech demo and they want to ship it, we would like the opportunity to say, as early in the process, you know, like, this is probably, put this on Rift. This is probably a good thing you maybe want to put on Go and maybe not on Quest. And the reason we want to intercept them early is that we would love to be able to deliver that message to them before they've made a big investment. Like, the worst thing is for them to spend all of the money and all the time and then get to the very end of the process and have us, you know, not really a fit for our platform there. Because then they've already burned so much of their resources. If we can get them early and say, you know, this isn't a fit for the platform, thanks, why don't you look at Rift or Go? they have the opportunity to do those they can also come back and say like okay, I'll try again and Make modifications their pitch or work on a demo or do whatever else it is And you know if they can convince us that they've got something that's really high quality Then we'll take another look and if they ship on rift and it turns out we're wrong and there's game is super duper awesome And we call it wrong. We will totally take them So, the goal there is, like I said, it's twofold. Make sure we get the stuff into the store, we get engaged with it as early as possible, make sure it's as high quality as it can be, and also make sure that we're not burning folks' money and resources, particularly from those folks that happen to be, you know, just learning about their first VR projects or sort of spending their time to build, like, their first thing. You know, as an indie developer myself, I don't want to burn their resources and time.

[00:22:31.053] Kent Bye: Well, this whole process, there's a part of it that's the concept document. And that's the thing that gives me the most concern. And the reason why is because how do you know if it's good if you've never actually tried it? Why are you expecting people to write it in words when what I would presume would be better is to actually experience a prototype or a demo? How are you going to be able to identify And the reason why I say this is because if you look at the evolution of Beat Saber, before that you have AudioShield and you have Soundboxing. Talking to the developer of Soundboxing, Eric Florenzino, that was denied by the Oculus Store. So Oculus' own curation process, if it was only up to Oculus, then we wouldn't perhaps have a Beat Saber. which has been an international phenomenon. So there's an evolution of thought there where there's a dialectic process where you look at something from audio shield to soundboxing into Beat Saber, there's a clear continuity and evolution. And my fear is that how do you know what the next Beat Saber is going to be if you are denying the soundboxings of the world?

[00:23:33.174] Chris Pruett: Well, I think what I would say is that the reason that we ask for a concept document is because that's what other platforms do as well. We provide a sample. The purpose of that document is not for you to convince us you've got the best gameplay. It's to convince us that you have a cool idea that you're actually able to execute on. So if you look at the sample document that we receive, it explains what the gameplay is. But it's a game that could be, it's a fake game that we made up. It's a game that could be implemented very well or could be implemented very poorly. What's more interesting is what's the idea behind it. And if we don't get it, if we think like, or for example, if it looks like a copycat of something that we've seen elsewhere, and we're like, hmm, maybe not what we're looking for, what we might do is ask for a playable. Because if you can provide a playable to us and we're just wrong, it's a great game, then we'll be convinced. Like the purpose of this system is not to shut down innovation at all. It's to make sure the folks that are actually making big investments against something that's super duper interesting have a slot in our store that folks are actually gonna be able to find them. I think if you look at some other platforms, I've worked on a number of platforms. I shipped into a number of platforms before. When I was at Google, I worked on Google Play. As an indie game developer, I think I shipped onto most of the app stores that exist. One of the consistent problems that they have, particularly those that will sort of take everything, is that applications just vanish. into a mass of apps, and even if they're good applications, it's very difficult to find them. And if you, particularly if you look at what's happened on mobile, that puts the onus on advertising for the developer, and as you can see on mobile, the rich developers will win the advertising war, whether or not their application is really good. So, I personally think that we have to do better than that in VR, and we actually have an obligation to take the things that are really good, whether they come from one-man-band development studios or these big-budget things, and make sure that they are able to find an audience. And in order to do that, I'm going to filter the things that I put directly in front of that audience on Quest. I'm not going to do that on Go or on Rift, because on those platforms, particularly on Rift, there's a secondary and, to your point, extremely valuable function, which is to be the bleeding edge. It's just to allow folks to iterate really quickly with VR design, with VR ideas. Like, I think if you had said to anybody three or four years ago that the number one most fun game in VR would be a beat-matching music game that you cut blocks about, everybody would have looked at you like, what? Like, this is not something that I don't think anybody would have anticipated. If you were playing AudioShield, you would have. We all played a lot of AudioShield, and I wouldn't have guessed that something that looks sort of like AudioShield was going to be the number one title in VR.

[00:26:02.867] Kent Bye: I believed it. That's why I was upset that Soundboxing never made it to Oculus. It just felt like it was sort of a next sort of iteration. I guess my concern is that there's a sort of a gatekeeping function here, where we're kind of relying upon the curation of what's on the store, and I understand there's this trade-off between making sure that people who buy the Quest have a good experience, and they don't want to be overwhelmed by a lot of shovelware that isn't necessarily innovating when it comes to creating content that's going to be compelling. My fear is that there's going to be compelling applications that are out there that maybe is difficult to convince that it's compelling enough or that they have enough of this quality bar, because it seems like the quality bar is rising, that they're not going to reach that quality bar and that there's going to be part of the amount of resources and capital that you have to have to even play and to participate in the process of game development. It seems like there's just kind of a closing down of access to that type of open innovation.

[00:26:59.419] Chris Pruett: Why would you think that it's closing if we haven't changed the existing things that exist today? Like all we're doing is adding opportunity, right?

[00:27:05.587] Kent Bye: Well, you're having to go through extra process of saying there's an increased quality bar for it to deliver.

[00:27:10.552] Chris Pruett: Sorry, that's not what I meant. What I meant is we're not changing anything on Rift or Go. So the opportunity that exists for those folks today on Rift, Go, Steam, PSVR, you name it, that hasn't changed. We're adding new users. The goal of Oculus Quest is adoption. We would like to be able to reach to an audience that's much, much larger than the existing PC VR audience today. So to the developers who are shipping on Rift and Go in particular, I don't think anything about their opportunity has particularly changed. In fact, we've just shipped a brand new Rift S headset. We're trying to drive adoption in that direction as well. So I guess I kind of don't buy it. I think that we have areas of the market which are absolutely perfect for experimentation and sort of low-cost iteration on new big things. And if you look at Rift in particular, you will see that there's a lot that's popped out of the Rift ecosystem as super high quality things. And some of those are on Quest today. That doesn't mean that every single one of our devices has to be that function. And I think that actually we have a second mandate, which I alluded to before, which is that as we expand the audience for Quest, ideally the amount of investment that's going into VR software will also increase. Like, our audience is going to expect bigger things, higher fidelity things, things that look more like what they're going to get on a game console. And for that to be true, the audience has to be satisfied with what they're getting. And for that, like, you're talking about a class of developers that are, you know, working on super experimental things, that it might be kind of rough, but, you know, hey, they're writing the grammar for the future of VR, and I totally get that. There's another class of developers that I think are just as valuable, which are the folks that are actually injecting the content into the ecosystem that folks buy. on the software. And that matters because they're the folks that are going to employ most of the VR developers in the future. Like, there has to be an ecosystem where there's revenue in it. Otherwise, nobody will be able to make VR software of any kind in the long term. So, I think that we have positioned these two devices in a way to expand upon the way that innovation works. Like, that's what Rift is best at. As well as finding a way to amass market audience where you could actually build a business in VR with high-quality VR content.

[00:29:20.917] Kent Bye: One of the things that is possible right now is to sideload content and apps. Now, if people wanted to bypass Oculus Store and to get content onto the Quest, whether or not it doesn't meet the standard content guidelines or whatnot, and there's at this point kind of a convoluted command line process to even get sideloaded content onto the Quest. Imagine that there might be tools that could be being developed by the community. If a tool comes out that makes it super easy for people to get content that may have not met the existing quality bar or for whatever reason not meet the standards, is that something that Facebook and Oculus is going to try to shut down and make it easy for people to sideload content? Or what's your philosophy around if people don't meet all the criteria to be able to be a part of the official Store then what's your philosophy around if people can find a way to still use the open? Aspects of the Android ecosystem to get it on there. Is that okay?

[00:30:16.480] Chris Pruett: Sure I mean my goal is to drive to revenue for our developers like the folks that are in VR today can't be funded by enthusiasm they have to be funded by actual dollars and My goal as the ecosystem team is to increase the quality of the stuff for the end user by making sure that the folks that are building it have a path to profitability and that's about investment and The stuff that folks are talking about for sideloading is probably pretty small. It's probably pretty niche. If folks want to do that with our hardware, like we have documented steps on how to turn on ADB, which is the command that you mentioned. Those are what every developer has to do to use the device as a development kit. Unlike most consoles, our retail devices can just be used for development kits. We don't lock that down. So if a user wants to put their device in developer mode and download the Android SDK and install some content, we're not going to stop them from doing that. But it's also not our focus. Our focus is on high quality end user experience.

[00:31:11.794] Kent Bye: So I guess one question is, for any app that's on the store, if they're selling different tokens or having some sort of commerce component, does Oculus take 30%? Is that right?

[00:31:24.715] Chris Pruett: We actually haven't published our split or the deals that we do with individual developers. We do support in-app purchases as well as the basic set of monetization systems that most platforms support, but we don't talk about the actual split.

[00:31:38.686] Kent Bye: And what if a app, let's say there's an app that's on the store, has a cryptocurrency and they want to do transactions that may be using some sort of blockchain-enabled technology that's completely other side. Do those transactions, would they be obligated to share some portion of whatever they sell? If it's distributed through Oculus Home, would they have to give a portion of that to Oculus?

[00:32:03.710] Chris Pruett: That app would actually be in violation of our rules that says if you're going to do any sort of payment processing, it has to go through us. And that is what you'll find every app store requires. I think that the system you described would not be allowed on any platform. I would advise to take a look at our distribution agreement, take a look at the EULA that comes with it. There may be patterns that fit, maybe there's a process that don't. Generally speaking, no app store will allow you to bypass their monetization system with some other third-party system. You can't use SMS on your phone to charge for Google Play apps. Google Play will not allow you to do that. The fact that it's based on cryptocurrency is probably not relevant. It's more that most platforms, including ours, have rules about how you do monetization of users.

[00:32:41.109] Kent Bye: Great. And what are some of the applications or games that you're personally excited about in terms of using the affordances of 6DoF mobile VR? Maybe having some interactions that are different or slightly changed because now all of a sudden you have all these new affordances with untethered mobile VR with 6DoF.

[00:33:02.215] Chris Pruett: Yeah, you know, let's see, you asked about titles that I'm interested in, which I'll tell you about, and then you also asked about Six Docs 4, which I'm really excited about, so I'll tell you about both. I was playing one of the games that we've announced for Quest at launch, which is Exorcist Legion, which is by a developer called Wolf and Wood, and it is a horror game in the Exorcist universe, and it basically drops you in a scary location, and you gotta walk around that location and pick up the clues and figure out how you're gonna survive some demonic possession things, and it's a VR horror game, and I love it. I can play that game in my living room and examine the entire space with almost no virtual motion just by walking around my space. I am in that police station, or I'm in the mental hospital, or wherever it is that you find yourself. I'm there, and I'm walking around, and I don't care which way is forward in the real world, and I don't care. There's nothing there to affect my immersion. I don't have the hugest living room. I don't have a VR room. I don't move my furniture around. I just drew a guardian boundary in the area that seemed largest. And that's enough. And I am using a little bit of virtual motion, which they also support. But it's enough for me to move around the space really freely. And even though there's nothing to prevent you from playing that game on a Rift or some other platform, it feels awesome. Like, I'm in the space and I'm part of it and I forget that I'm in VR and that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to make you forget that you're wearing this headset on your head, that you are holding controllers in your hands. They're just your hands. So, for me personally, like, gotta love me some Beat Saber. I'm a really big fan. It's super hot. I probably put more time in a single session into Moss than any other VR title that I've played in the last year. I put a lot of time into Face Your Fears 2 as well for similar reasons. I'm a big horror game fan. But in terms of affordances in particular, just untethered nature of being able to move around the space, it's kind of magic. I'm a VR curmudgeon at this point, right? I've been at Oculus for almost five years. I was there for the very first Gear VR shipments. I've done VR for a long time. I'm no longer there just because it's a cool piece of technology. But even then, even with my sort of jaded outlook, putting on a Quest headset is a magical moment for me, a magical moment I haven't felt in a while. Because getting up and moving around a space is, I mean, I don't know, you've tried it now, I don't know if you agree, but I found it to be a very freeing sort of magical experience. There's another part of your question that you touched on, which is sort of affordances for 6DoF untethered. That's actually a super interesting area of VR design that I think we're just starting to scratch the surface of. I'll give you a couple of examples that we've seen. I spoke at GDC about Superhot's level end triangle. I don't know if you're familiar with that discussion.

[00:35:43.787] Kent Bye: I didn't see the discussion, but I have played through the whole game, yeah.

[00:35:46.828] Chris Pruett: So in our Oculus Connect 5 demo of SuperHot, which is basically SuperHot that you get on Quest, we put it in this really big space so that you could see that you could walk around the space and how cool SuperHot was when you could walk around a big space. And the SuperHot team came up with this cool system by which at the end of each level you have to go smash this spinning pyramid thing. And you don't really think about it because the whole game is kind of stylized, and it's just, you know, the next thing to smash, and it's super hot, and then you go to the next level. What they're actually doing there is they're forcing you to walk back to the center of your play space. They spawn the spinning pyramid in the center of your play space, regardless of how large your play space is, so that if you happen to end up near your guardian boundary or near a wall, before you start the next level, you're moved back into the area where you have the largest amount of space. Because they always want you to start the level with freedom of movement. Available and it's a really simple thing. It's not like a complicated brain hack like redirected walking or something It's just hey, there's an object of there You got a smash but you have to walk back over there to get to it and people do it without thinking about it And they made their experience better, because they removed the possibility of you starting near a guardian boundary and not being able to move in one direction because you happened to spawn in the wrong spot. I thought that was super duper smart. And I think there's a bunch more things that look like that, which will be a little bit subtle for the user to realize, but will be the result of developers thinking really hard. Another example is we have force grab. There's a whole bunch of things that are really common VR design patterns at this point. One of them is force grabbing stuff with your hands. You reach for an object that's a little bit out of reach, and you hit the grip button, and the object just sort of flies into your hand. It's a really nice affordance. It also makes you feel pretty powerful. It's a cool thing that almost every title does now. We found that the need to have Force Grab is reduced in Quest, because you can actually just walk over to the object and pick it up. Or the other interesting example is, it used to be kind of annoying to pick up things off the floor. Stuff would fall on the floor, and particularly with Rift, if you have a pretty standard Rift setup would be, you've got a desk, you've got trackers on the desk, you're standing up in front of the desk and you're playing your VR game, Sometimes that would mean that the desk itself would occlude the sort of bottom of the frustum of the trackers. So it can't actually see your floor very well. So at least I had this experience. If you wanted to reach down and grab something on the floor, actually touch the floor, depending on how far away from your desk, you might actually get to the point where the controllers are occluded by the desk itself. So it's kind of hard to pick things up off the floor. All that goes away with inside-out tracking. Not only can you reach down and grab something on the floor, you can like lie down on the floor, or you can hide under a bed in virtual space. And you can do like, there's sort of this ability to move and grab and interact with objects without restriction that we kind of, I think we take the restrictions for granted now because we're used to them. But when they go away, they sort of feel magical again. We've had some developers experiment with removing snap turns from their games because they don't feel like they need them anymore because you can stand and turn all the way around and you're not going to get wound up in a cable. Personally, I don't recommend that. I think that you should still have snap turns, because we want you to afford usability for all sorts of people. And you have to imagine that some of your users are going to be sitting in a wheelchair and can't so easily spin around. And that person should still be able to play your game. So I wouldn't recommend that you get rid of snap turns. But we see developers saying, hmm, this used to be a critical part of my locomotion system. And now I'm not even sure that I need it any longer, because you can actually just turn around.

[00:39:02.512] Kent Bye: because you don't have a wire and a tether. That's the thing that I noticed, especially in Beat Saber as well as in Dance Central. Yeah, because just not having the tether, it gives you, for me at least, a deeper sense of that embodied presence where I don't feel like it's kind of taking me out and having both a physical and symbolic tether to the ground. One of the things I hadn't seen any of the apps explore, and I don't know if the SDK even supports this yet, but during the Dead and Buried demo that I did at Oculus Connect 5, where I'm kind of running around this whole space, there was a bit of a pass-through way to see what the world is and do a little bit more of augmented reality prototyping. I imagine that the Quest is actually going to be a really great way to do, like, mixed reality development and to do these prototyping of Being able to track what's the context of your space do the sensors within the oculus quest their computer vision? I presume and would you need to have like a depth sensor to be able to actually to detect the spatial relationships of objects or do you feel like you're able to do enough just with computer vision and augmented reality to be able to see a couch, be able to segment it, and then start to occlude and bring that into a virtual space and do a whole kind of mixed reality development. I haven't seen anything about that, but I imagine that's theoretically possible and going to be on the roadmap eventually, but I'm just curious if that's like possible today.

[00:40:22.318] Chris Pruett: So I'm not a computer vision expert. I am a former engineer, and when I was an engineer, I wrote video games and not computer vision. So you take this a little bit of salt. But, yeah, I think the demo that we showed at Oculus Connect 5 last year with Dead and Buried could be considered like a collection of interesting areas of technology that we're exploring, not features of the product we're shipping today. So, for example, we had a bunch of people in a shared very large virtual space with, you know, physical objects that match the position of virtual objects. a magical window where you had like a tablet that you were carrying around that somebody could see into the world and that thing was also spatially tracked. And then we had the sort of pass-through technology that you were talking about. You will see on Rift S, there's a slightly similar version of that effect in Pass-Through Plus, where we actually take the sensor information, we actually project it in 3D and then display it to you. So it looks like the pass-through sensor that you've seen when you set up Guardian on Quest, but it's actually stereo correct and it feels a little bit better. We have a huge research team that is constantly building out interesting ideas of things we can do with our hardware. And mixed reality is one of the things we'd totally like to explore. But I don't have like a lot of the stuff that we showed that that was experimental. It's not something developers have access to today. It's not something we feel confident enough in shipping yet. It's pretty easy to build a tech demo and pretty hard to build a product, right? So there's a time between us proving out the technology works and actually packaging it in a way that would be generally useful to developers. But it is something that we're super interested in.

[00:41:50.103] Kent Bye: Well, that's a very fixed set, and I imagine that to create a generalized solution is very difficult. But if someone wanted to build out that set and match it up to that, would that be a type of location-based entertainment experience that today people could build an equivalent of what you showed without maybe the pass-through AR element, but to just use what's available today and to do a one-to-one mapping of a physical space with physical objects with an Oculus Quest in an open area?

[00:42:16.775] Chris Pruett: Yeah, I've actually seen some third-party developers who've built something similar. I would say it's much more difficult for a third-party to build it than it is for us because they don't have some of the technology we showed there and we haven't released it yet. But it's not impossible. Generally, the really challenging part of that entire problem set is that what we're doing with Insight is we don't know what the objects that we see in the world are. All they are is feature points. It's a high contrast item. We don't know if that's a can on your desk or a picture on the wall. We don't care. All we want to be able to do is track that from frame to frame so that we know how your head is moving. So you can't map from those feature points very easily into some sort of reasonable approximation of your actual space. They don't map at all. It looks more like a database than it does like a vertex cloud or something. So the challenges that folks are gonna have is the initial localization of the space Which is to say like I can create a virtual space and I can match it perfectly to a physical space but how do I know where in that virtual space my headset is right now and the the answer that is generally you need to know where it started from because our tracking is very Accurate and we can have very low error in the positional tracking over a long period of time So if you were able to start the headset in a canonical position, then in theory, you should be able to pretty accurately match it up to a real world. And that's kind of what the developers that I've worked with, the area that they're trying. I think that would probably work. It is, like I said, it's a much more challenging set of problems because you're working with a pretty limited data set to do it. But I think developers will probably figure it out.

[00:43:44.555] Kent Bye: So for you, what do you want to experience in virtual reality?

[00:43:49.312] Chris Pruett: Boy, I am a narrative story guy. So I want to go somewhere that I can't go. I want to be somebody that I can't be. And I want to be in a story that wouldn't ever happen to me. Like I said earlier, I'm a horror game fan, horror games, check all those boxes. I'm interested in going places and meeting people that are actual real people. that are not standing next to me. And I would love to stand on the surface of Mars. That's the thing that I'm personally interested in. I want to put on a headset and not only be in another space, but be in another narrative, to be in another story and be somebody else.

[00:44:21.797] Kent Bye: And for you and what you're working on right now, what are some of the either biggest open questions that you're trying to answer or open problems that you're trying to solve?

[00:44:31.562] Chris Pruett: I mean, my goal is to make sure that our platform can sustain businesses for our developers, right? Like, I want our developers to be able to build quickly and easily for our platforms, to make high quality things for our platforms, make sure that we have great tools available for those developers, great documentation, and that when they ship to us, they can find an audience, and we can help them find that audience. So those are the sort of the big meaty topics that I worry about from day to day.

[00:44:54.802] Kent Bye: And finally, what do you think the ultimate potential of virtual reality is and what it might be able to enable?

[00:45:04.311] Chris Pruett: Jeez, that's a good question. I you know what I would like to say like oh look We're gonna step into the holodeck and have like a virtual world anywhere But I actually think that that's a pretty narrow definition of what VR can be and I think it would be remiss to guess Like I said, I don't think we would have anticipated when we shipped rift We would not have anticipated that beat saber was gonna be the really thing that we all wanted to do I suspect that VR is going to be the thing that allows us to connect people across very large distances at massive scale in a way that is so convincing that you can have a real personal relationship with that person, in addition to having a relationship with the place that you're at. But also think that that's probably like the top 10% of the iceberg, and that the actual thing that you want to do once you have Produced that effect is as yet to be determined we could guess at it today And I think we'd probably sound like people in the 50s guessing about flying cars in the year 2000 like it's actually Probably if we guess today would probably be wrong, so I'd rather build the stuff that's super obvious like yes You should be able to go to another place and a super high fidelity conversation with somebody else and play some games together I'd love to build all that stuff and then and then understand what that unlocks

[00:46:15.044] Kent Bye: Very cool. Just a couple more minutes and one thing that I just wanted to say is that I was super impressed with the Oculus Quest. I think it's an engineering feat and a marvel and I'm super excited to where it goes. I guess my biggest hesitation is to see this as a sort of a closed platform, a closed ecosystem where you have something like OpenXR with open standards on the PCs and open platform. this seems to be more of a closed platform. And in talking to Neil Trevitt of Cronus Group, he said that for every successful open standard, there's a proprietary competitor. So I kind of see this as a dialectic where we're kind of shifting into the more closed model and to see where that goes. But yet, I guess my concern would be, you know, how is this going to be an open platform for innovation? Is this going to have all of the OpenXR integrations to be able to put all sorts of third-party peripherals into it, or are we going to have this fracturing into each individual VR platform's ecosystem that becomes these walled gardens that fracture the overall ecosystem. So as I look at this, that's sort of like my deep sort of gut cautionary like moment where I'm super excited about it, but I'm also concerned of seeing the little signals of where this goes in terms of the openness versus closed dynamic of what happens to the ecosystem in the future.

[00:47:23.630] Chris Pruett: I mean, I think if you look at OpenXR, you'll see that Oculus has been a critical component of that, if not pushing its design, along with our compatriots from other companies in the VR space. We're certainly not the only ones, but it has been something that we have put a lot of effort into ourselves. So I think it should be, I mean, if you look at our contributions and the things we've talked about with respect to OpenXR, even though, you know, it hasn't quite landed yet. Yeah, I mean, I think it's pretty obviously part of our strategy.

[00:47:48.265] Kent Bye: Do you think that OpenXR would be coming to the Quest at some point? Because, you know, they've talked about how that's a console, so it's surprising me to hear that that's... I mean, there's obviously the Rift and the Go, but I sort of think this is a mobile thing that may be a little bit different than an open platform, because it does seem so close. But do you think that OpenXR would come to the Quest?

[00:48:04.991] Chris Pruett: I honestly have no idea. I don't know if it actually makes tons of sense on the Quest, because I think the main value you would get from something like that in the very short term is having a single SDK that can support multiple headsets. That's not going to really apply to things that are standalone devices, because you're always going to be writing against whatever the hardware in that particular device is. And you could abstract it somehow, but you're going to probably need to know what that hardware is. We look at game consoles, right? Like you can use, for example, you could use OpenGL as your sort of open standard 3D graphics format. But that doesn't mean you know enough to write a really performant game on a Nintendo Switch or a PlayStation 4. Like you actually need to understand what that hardware is and you need to design for it. So I think that'll actually continue to be the case. So whether or not OpenXR ships requests, which I honestly don't know the answer for, I would think that it's more impactful in an area where you have a single compute device, like a PC, and a number of different headsets. Because then, if you can write your game one way for that PC and target it to a bunch of different folks, that's a simplification of what overhaving independent APIs that we have today. But like I said, it hasn't landed yet. This is conjecture on my part. What I wanted to say was that we are strong supporters of OpenXR. We're part of the group that has written the standard. And as I said earlier on Rift, we see massive value, particularly in the PC ecosystem, where it is easy to get started, it is easy to iterate quickly. That's the area where we see the grammar of VR getting written. It's where it's been written for the last several years, and I think it's continued to be the bleeding edge.

[00:49:32.513] Kent Bye: Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the immersive community?

[00:49:36.997] Chris Pruett: Please keep making awesome things. We are loving this along with you. We're trying to ship the best things we can, but you guys are the folks that actually get to put stuff in front of the end users. They put our headsets on, but they're playing your content. So please continue to make really awesome stuff.

[00:49:52.810] Kent Bye: Awesome. Great. Well, thank you so much for joining me today on the podcast. Thank you. Thank you very much for your time. So that was Chris Pruitt. He's the Director of Content Ecosystem at Oculus. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that, first of all, well, there seemed to be this shift towards looking to see what other companies are doing with their own walled garden app ecosystems and to essentially copy them and say, now that they're doing that, we're going to do that as well. You look at something like the Sony PlayStation VR And, you know, they're sold over 4 million units and they seem to have a very vibrant content ecosystem there. And so I think there is value to doing a certain amount of curation and also think there's a huge amount of value of what steam has been able to do of becoming even more open to provide an outlet for some of the most cutting edge innovation. But there is this trade off between having like a paradox of choice and having like way too many choices to know what to look at versus. having a little bit more curated experience so that when you do buy one of these headsets that people who are just entering into the content ecosystem are going to have a pretty good selection of experiences that Oculus are saying that, you know, this is meeting a certain level of quality bar. They're going to have a good VR experience rather than to get the quest and to be able to have access to experiences that are really not the best of what VR can show. So I feel like, you know, if anything, this is hopefully like a short term strategy and that as time goes on, there's going to be more and more things that are opening up just because there is this argument that Chris was giving, which is essentially like, well, nothing has changed because we still have the Oculus Go and the Oculus Rift S, and those are going to be a lot more open than what it takes to get something onto the Oculus Quest. So the problem in my perspective from that is that if you were to like design an experience for each of those different platforms, it's like a completely different design process. There's going to be a lot of different design considerations that like it's going to be a better game if you design it from scratch for the quest. And so I guess the challenge is moving to something like the concept document for me puts the onus and the burden on trying to like sell the story of an experience that you haven't had. And there's this challenge of the qualia, which is like in a movie, when you're pitching a movie, you're like, okay, this movie is like this movie plus this movie. And when you're pitching a VR experiences, we don't have that fundamental language to understand like what things could be a combination of. And so Chris said a number of different times, oh, well, nobody could have possibly known that Beat Saber was going to be like this international phenomenon that everybody was playing. And maybe that was just because they had like bad mental models for what they were looking for in VR. Because for me, when I saw both AudioShield and Soundboxing, that was like my most favorite game that I saw. of any of the stuff that was out there and I wasn't really interested in what they were thinking was going to be the big games that were going to be helping VR to take off and so like an experience like AudioShield or Soundboxing never ended up actually making it to the Oculus platform and so you have this situation where they're not seeing something that is a hugely compelling aspects of the fundamental nature of the medium It just like gives me more extra pause to say, okay, let's double down and to be more rigorous in trying to curate what we think is going to be the thing that's going to be taking off. And it's, for me, it's like, well, how many other Beat Sabers have you missed over the years? Because you didn't give them a chance to have an access to distribution on your platform. Because even though the Oculus Home is still somewhat relatively more open, especially in compared to Oculus Quest, it's nowhere as open as something like the Steam has ended up being. So I guess his point is like, well, if they're going to be really super compelling experiences, then they're still going to have an opportunity to rise to the top on these other platforms. So it's that increased funneling and gatekeeping function that gives me pause. I'm super happy that there's something like web XR and the Oculus browser, because in some ways that would provide some access for people to be able to launch something and maybe have people have access to it via the open web. Because a lot of the applications that are being released and launched are very focused on gaming. And there's not as many productivity types of experiences. I know that Tilt Brush is going to be coming out as one of the launch titles. And I don't know how many other type of non-gaming, non-entertainment type of applications there's going to be. But that's something that I'm super interested in. And I just would hope that those would be made available at some point sooner rather than later. You know, one of the things I keep coming back to is when Neil Trevitt said to me that every successful open standard has a proprietary competitor. So I see that there's this pendulum that is swinging back and forth and that in this moment in time right now, things seem to be swinging towards these closed walled garden ecosystems where these companies are going to be owning the platform. And I think that is maybe going to help bootstrap the industry in a way that it will make it viable, will make it make sense for a handful of companies to be able to really make it economically. But, you know, the fact that it is so curated means that there's a whole lot of other people who just aren't going to have any access to be able to have a seat at that table. Maybe they'll get it to the point where the ecosystem does reach those 10 million headset units that Facebook said that is a critical mass. Once there's that many headsets, then it becomes a viable ecosystem for a lot more people. One of the things that Mark Zuckerberg had said in one of his emails that was published by Blake Harris' book, History of the Future, was that once you open up a platform, there's no going back and closing it down. They're starting with a closed platform. My hope is that at some point it starts to open up more, but my fear is that the revenue and the ability to be able to be taking whatever ends up being a sense that, you know, industry standards around like 30% cut or so, then it's going to be really hard for them to let go of that revenue stream and to move more towards these open ecosystems. You know, the whole business models around all of this are still yet to be fully fleshed out and fully figured out. So I definitely feel conflicted in the sense of, you know, after spending two days at the FA conference and having a chance to talk to over a dozen different developers and talk to a few different representatives from Facebook, I see a lot of positive signs that the company is making different shifts. However, there's also a lot more open questions and there's, I think, a lot more embodied actions that I would love to see. Like if they're serious about moving into this, the future is private, then there's all sorts of things that they could start to do in terms of like peer to peer architectures and homeomorphic encryption when it comes to data that's being stored or self-sovereign identity or having these institutional review boards come in and do these audits for their privacy policies to be a little bit more engaged and transparent as to what is being recorded. When is it changed that things are being recorded? What are the disclosure obligations for what is being recorded and when and why? What is their policy and philosophy around biometric data privacy? You know all these things that I think are just like huge hanging open questions that I don't think have been satisfactorily addressed by anyone from the company and that in the second day of the FA conference they were talking about all the different ethical and moral dilemmas that they have to deal with day to day in terms of dealing with all this adversarial content for all these eight different categories. And, you know, even just how they do the design considerations around when someone passes away, what are the modern day death rituals that are able to satisfy all these different competing interests? And how do you know which pathway to go down when somebody dies on their network? Then how do you know which is going to be the best process that people can actually follow? It just goes to show that there's these design decisions that don't have a perfect answer. And there's these approaches of like just trying to handle and filter out misinformation that they know is deliberate and misinformation. Then they have a certain machine learning algorithm that can start to detect and automatically delete some of the content. But there's no way to do that without accidentally filtering out and deleting stuff. That's actually legitimate information and just is a false positive. And so how do you balance it within the. AI slider to be able to find this perfect balance of trying to, you know, reduce as much misinformation as you can versus letting the legitimate information out there. They were saying that fairness is a process and it's complicated and you have to have these various different trade-offs. And in a lot of ways, I'm totally on board with that. I'm a huge fan of Alfred North Whitehead's process philosophy, which is all about looking at things in terms of a process and not as these fixed objects. But When it comes to privacy, they're not saying that privacy is a process with all these different trade-offs. They're just saying, this is what we think that these six things of privacy are, and now all of a sudden we're on the good side of being a private company without recognizing or handling a lot of the complexity or nuance of what that actually means. And, you know, Mark Zuckerberg said himself, you know, we don't necessarily have the best reputation on this topic, but they were saying that they really wanted to make a good faith effort into making a change. And so that's great that they're saying that up on stage. And I just want to see a lot more in terms of their embodied interactions over time. And these various things around, you know, did they come up and said, now all of a sudden we have this completely different new privacy policy that is going to be a lot more restrictive and more favorable for privacy? No, they didn't say that. The privacy policies that are on the books are extremely open and liberal about what they can and cannot do. And they're not at F8 conference saying like, oh, here's all of our new changes to our privacy policy to really embody what we mean to say that we're actually making this huge good faith effort in our changes in privacy. So it's stuff like that, you know, they can say stuff on stage, but what are they actually doing at a deep embodied level to be able to put some of these changes into practice? And so taking all that into consideration of all the different paradox of the sort of nuances of Facebook as a company. They're a very profitable company. They have a lot of money and they're putting a lot of money into the Oculus Quest. And it's an amazing piece of hardware that I hope that people do have an opportunity to be able to check out and to be able to use and support. And I think it's just going to be up to each company to start to navigate how much they want to really participate and to building an extremely closed walled garden ecosystem. I personally don't think that's the future of where VR wants to be in five to 10 years. I don't want to see a scenario where there's like a single company that's basically owning what can and cannot happen on VR with these networked communications. It would be kind of like if AOL or CompuServe were still around today and that with anything that you ever wanted to do on the internet that there would be a single company that was taking like a 30% cut of whatever you were doing. But at the same time, there is value of being able to cultivate and generate an entirely new platform and to have audiences around that. Yes, that's true in the short term, but hopefully in the long term, we're not still talking about closed walled garden app ecosystems five to 10 years from now, because if we are, then something has gone seriously wrong. So that's all that I have for today and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast and to listen to a little bit more maybe of a nuanced take of Oculus Quest and where Facebook is going. The Voices of VR is an independent project. It's me going to these different conferences and just talking to lots of different people, over 1100 people over the last five years. I feel like I've been capturing this whole level of a real-time oral history, but to have an opportunity to question these different people and to really hear what their answers are and to really try to deconstruct and understand and try to foster a culture of open dialogue and conversation and an exchange of information and knowledge, but also to be able to debate about various different topics and to talk about the various different trade-offs of all these different ethical and moral dilemmas. So The Voices of VR is this independent media project that really relies upon support from my listeners. And so if you enjoy this podcast and want to see more, then please do consider becoming a member of the Patreon. Just $5 or $10 a month makes a huge difference and allows me to continue to do what I'm doing on The Voices of VR. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voices of VR. Thanks for listening.

More from this show