On June 11, 2019, Guy Godin announced on Reddit and on Twitter that “Oculus doesn’t want the SteamVR streaming feature in their store” and that he had been asked by Oculus to remove this wireless streaming feature that he had recently added to his Virtual Desktop application.
Facebook provided a statement to UploadVR and Road to VR saying, “While we don’t comment on the status of specific apps, our Oculus Store application submission system is designed to help ensure that our devices deliver a consistent, comfortable experience to customers. Apps are evaluated on a number of factors including performance, input, and safety with the goal of creating a quality, high-value experience for all VR consumers.”
Oculus’ Jason Rubin tweeted on June 14, 2019 saying, “We asked Virtual Desktop to roll back an update. We found out about the new features through user complaints & it took us a while to get it to work. We accept experiences vary, but this feature compromised comfort, safety, & quality to different levels for different users.”
Godin tells me that you have to have a good enough PC for wireless streaming to work well enough, wired ethernet helps enormously, and sometimes users have to set up a wireless mesh network in your home in order for it to work properly, especially if your PC is in another room.
But what Facebook is saying is that they want to create a “quality, high-value experience for all VR consumers.” Reading between the lines, then it appears as though Facebook is saying that the PC owners with the lowest minimum specification component parts on their PC may get degraded experience of wireless streaming, and that this is what they’re using to justify this feature being removed.
But from talking with Godin, it doesn’t sound like he was provided these minimum specifications, or even provided much more context or details as to why this feature had to be removed otherwise be pulled from the store. His solution was to provide a patch in the Side Quest store that works if someone has bought the full version of Virtual Desktop.
Unfortunately, @Oculus didn’t listen to the community and had me remove the feature today. I’ve made the app available on SideQuest with the streaming feature enabled there. The latest version has improved image quality in VR mode. Thanks for your support! https://t.co/jYZZMIYQZq
— Guy Godin (@VRDesktop) June 13, 2019
Now that the Oculus Rift has been announced to be discontinued as of Spring of 2021, then Oculus will not have any dedicated PC VR headsets, which will put more emphasis on either using the Oculus Link cable or for Oculus to develop their own wireless streaming solution.
In John Carmack’s Unscripted Live talk at Facebook Connect 1 on September 16th, 2020, he shared more context about internal debates around wireless streaming by saying:
“We still haven’t announced a full wireless connection system for Link. And we have these interminable arguments internally about this — about quality bars. And I keep saying that… I have existing proofs where whenever we argue about this I can say, ‘Right this very minute, someone is using a wireless VR streaming system and getting value from it. You know, it is not as good as being wired. It is not as good as we might hope. It might not meet your personal minimum quality bar, but it is clearly meeting some people’s minimum quality bar and delivering to them because they keep coming back and doing it.’ So I continue to beat that drum where we should have some type of Air Link.”
I talk to Godin about wireless streaming in Virtual Desktop, but also his experience of Facebook wanting to buy him out. After he refused to sell his company, then he claims that Facebook proceeded to clone his basic features in their application “Oculus Desktop,” and Godin shows a screenshot of Oculus UI elements where Oculus Desktop is referred to as “Virtual Desktop”, which has confused users that it’s Godin’s Virtual Desktop application.
BigScreenVR’s Darshan Shankar also pointed out Facebook’s conflict of interest of being both a platform provider as well as an app and experience provider in that sometimes Facebook develops first-party apps and experiences that directly compete with their developer ecosystem. Shankar points out that Facebook has the ability to track what applications are gaining traction and popularity, and then try to either acquire that app or clone those features into their own applications.
Godin and Shankar are two independent VR developers who have reported some level of cloning behaviors from Facebook, and I know there are a number of other VR developers who may be coming forward to tell more of their stories of having Facebook clone their applications.
The Verge’s Adi Robertson has been covering the Anti-Trust hearings against Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and she reported on some emails from Facebook executives talking about how it’s faster to clone competitors than to do their own innovation.
A chain of messages starts with Zuckerberg recounting a meeting with the founders of Chinese social networking app Renren. “In China there is this strong culture of cloning things quickly and building lots of different products,” he wrote. “Seeing all this and the pace that new mobile apps seem to be coming out from other companies makes me think we’re moving very slowly. … I wonder what we could do to move a lot faster.”
The messages were released on Wednesday as part of a House Judiciary Committee probe.
Other employees, some of their names redacted, agreed that “copying is faster than innovating,” even if they worried it would give Facebook a bad reputation in the industry.
It’s certainly possible that Facebook may have independently been working on a lot of these features in Virtual Desktop and BigScreen, but there may be an emerging pattern of anti-competitive behavior here where Facebook’s desire to have the most popular apps and experiences on their own platform means subtly undermining some of their most successful VR developers within their ecosystem.
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[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR Podcast. So at Facebook Connect One, Facebook announced that they're going to be retiring the Oculus Rift S and all of the PC VR lines. and they're going to be consolidating everything into the Oculus Quest. So the Oculus Quest is coming out here on October 13th. And in the future, they're going to be relying upon the Oculus Link in order to get PC VR into their headsets. Now, there's a lot of different bandwidth and other limitations with the Oculus Link, namely that you can't do the full resolution or even the full frame rate of the 90 hertz. And so they're going to continue to do software upgrades. But there's a lot of people that were asking about the wireless streaming. Is there going to be some sort of solution from Oculus when it comes to just being able to stream directly to your Oculus Quest? This is actually a feature that Guy Gaudin had implemented for virtual desktop. But back on June 11, 2019, Guy had reported to Reddit that he was asked by Oculus to actually remove this feature. Now, Geek claims that there was no explicit reasoning for why this was a violation of anything. And so they were basically saying, unless you remove this feature, then we're going to remove your entire application from the store. And at the end, I'll have a little bit more context, since I did have a chance to follow up with someone from Facebook to ask them this question, as well as in John Carmack's unscripted talk, Carmack actually addressed this debate as well, since it does seem like it's an ongoing internal debate within Oculus how to exactly handle this type of wireless streaming. But I wanted to talk to Guy to talk about Virtual Desktop, this application that he's created and this whole interaction that he had with Facebook, just to get a bit more context about that, as well as the experience that he's had of Facebook wanting to buy his application out. He didn't sell it. And then they just went ahead and essentially cloned the functionality. And not only that, but named it the exact same thing. So Guy has his application called Virtual Desktop and Oculus has their own internal application called Virtual Desktop. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Guy has been on Monday, September 7th, 2020. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in. My name is Guy Godoy. I'm the developer of Virtual Desktop. It's an app that lets you connect to your computer and use it in VR to do various things. I've been developing for VR since 2014. I started developing with the first Oculus DK1 back in the day, and now I support all major VR headsets, including a mobile one, like the GO and the Quest. Maybe you could give a bit more context as to your background and your journey into VR. Sure. I've been in the video game industry for the past 15 years. So I've been developing tools for various game companies. I worked at Ubisoft, Blizzard, Microsoft. I developed game tools that artists and developers bring assets into games. So things like level editors, texture tools, that kind of stuff. So VR was kind of a, not really a clear path from where I was in, but there was kind of a need for tools in the VR space. And I thought, you know, I'll give it a try. And so that's how I got started. I just started developing on the side, like during evenings, weekends, and only recently, only in 2017, did I switch to developing full-time in VR. Okay. And so maybe you could talk about Virtual Desktop and how that came about and just a little bit more context as to that project you've been working on since then. Sure. So in the early days, each VR application was really siloed. Like you launched an app, then you take off the headset, and then you launch another app and you put it back on. So it was very, was not really user friendly. So I thought it would be really nice that you'd be able to see and use your computer in VR. So you could stay the whole way through between experiences. So I, the app I started working in, in 2014 that you just have to see your computer and launch games from there and then steam DR the whole time. And since then I've added a lot of features. I've added a video player, the ability to view 360 photos, create your own environments and different features. And a few years ago, I started working on a mobile version, which streams your desktop wirelessly to the Go and the Quest. And since then, I've added the ability to also stream VR games so that you can play all your SteamVR and Oculus Rift games with your Quest or your Go. And this is probably the most popular feature today that most people know Virtual Desktop because of the VR streaming feature. So this launched I think over a year ago now, this streaming feature, and there was a little bit of a controversy because I guess that you had launched it without telling them, or I don't know if it was a violation of their terms of service as a developer, certain rules you have to follow, but they essentially took it off the store. You had to break that off and put that into SideQuest. but people can still buy Virtual Desktop and get access to this feature of being able to stream what you're playing from your Steam library or your Oculus library on your PC. Maybe you could just take that from the top of that controversy of like, what happened from your side and where are we at today of what's happening with that? Right. So it was a very frustrating experience because I've never had to ask what features can I add or not add into my app. I just work on what people want. Right. And when I released the app to go and gear VR, a lot of people were like, well, since you're connected to the PC, why don't you allow streaming VR games? I was like, yeah, you know, there are a couple of apps out there that do this, but it's not very user-friendly. So I'll look into it. And so it's a feature that I was working on just before the quest was about to release. So I didn't have time to get it in for the release. So it's something I was working in the background because I keep updating my apps constantly. You know, I've been doing this since 2014 and I just keep iterating on it. So it's a feature that I added a little bit a few weeks after release. And so I was kind of excited to see what people think, you know, and I'll improve it over time and all that. And then it was very sad when Oculus reached out to me and said, you have to remove the feature from the store. Otherwise, we're going to pull your app. And so at that point, I didn't really have a choice. I mean, it was either I remove the app completely, and then I try to monetize in a different way, and that would have been really hard. So I decided to pull the feature out, but make it accessible via patch through SideQuest because SideQuest had a good way of installing APKs in the Android world. So I decided to make it available there. And frankly, since then, I think most people who buy the app actually go through the trouble of sideloading the patch to be able to enjoy the feature. So it's sort of like, my understanding, at least, is that you have a dependency upon this patch that you have to buy the app through the official channel in the stores. And then you go into SideQuest, and then you upload this patch that then unlocks this feature that Oculus was not allowing you to ship on the store. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And the thing is, initially, the complaints from Oculus were that Oh, not everyone's going to get a good experience. It depends largely on your network setup at home. If you don't have a good network, you're not going to get a good experience. But, you know, it's like this with anything related to PC. If you don't have a good graphics card, you're not going to get good performance. If you have a bad motherboard with bad USB controller, you're going to get some choppy performance, right? It's the same thing with any PC peripheral, really. I think that argument is kind of bogus, because for people who have a good setup, it works really, really well. And lots of people in the reviews and the comments tell me that they prefer it a lot over Link, because Link is still very buggy today. And it doesn't have great picture quality either. So on that front, I think I do a better job than Oculus. Well, as a developer, you have to follow the rules that Oculus has put forth. And I know that, like, say, with Apple, there's certain specific guidelines with a number that they say, okay, sometimes you get rejected without any specifics, or sometimes you get turned down and saying, oh, well, you're not following this specific guideline. Was there a specific part of the developer agreement that Oculus was citing when they were taking it? No, no, there's nothing. I made sure of that when I put my feature in. Like, it doesn't go against any guidelines. Like, it doesn't offer the ability to purchase other games within the app. It doesn't, it's not creating another store within the app. I think it doesn't violate any rules. It was just basically them saying, Oh, we can't guarantee the quality of the experience. Therefore you have to pull the feature out. But I, as far as I'm aware, I don't think they've asked anyone to do anything like that before to remove a feature instead of the entire app. So my belief is that, they while the time they were working on that for sure because a few months later they released oculus link which does the same thing but with a wire so they probably didn't want to be overshadowed by an indie developer who just did his thing right so they probably wanted to sell their app sell their cable and that's how i see it i could be wrong Well, I think that there's certain guidelines that they want to hold, presumably with the quality of the experience in terms of not making people motion sick or ensuring a certain level of quality. And there's enough ambiguity in that, that they could say that that's why it's being rejected, but there could be other reasons. Do you think that there are other reasons other than what they're saying? I don't know, honestly, because with link, they have the same issues where some people get choppy performance, or some users have, you know, a bad USB controller in their motherboard, and they get similar experiences having a bad router. So you need a good PC to play PC VR games, and you need a good setup. If you don't have it, you're going to have a bad experience. So I think that argument is bogus, in my opinion. I mean, I don't know, I think it's just really a matter of they want to own the space and they don't want apps to work on stuff that they're working on. And Yeah, I talked to Darshan from Big Screen, and he was saying that in some ways, Facebook's playing two roles. One is that they're creating a platform for independent developers like yourself to create different services, but yet they also, by themselves, Facebook wants to put forth specific applications and experiences, and that what Darshan seemed to be saying and indicating is that There are certain things that, like in Darshan's case, media consumption, where Facebook would likely prefer to have complete control over certain aspects of, say, media consumption and have those big deals. Rather than having an independent developer making these deals with big movie studios, Facebook wants to be the one that is making that. So it's, on one hand, they have the right to set the rules of, okay, everybody has to take 30%. And if the movie studios are taking 60 to 80%, then he's going to be losing money. It's not viable. There also seems to be this conflict of interest between Oculus and Facebook wanting to create this platform for people to build whatever they want versus the specific things that they want to own or be dominant in that area. And Darshan had run into that. And it seems like you may be treading in some of that similar area where there may be some of the functionality that you're doing that Facebook and Oculus wants to do. And not only that, that they've actually not only cloning some of the aspects of your app, but also giving it the exact same name. And as you quote tweeted, Darshan, and with a photo of virtual desktop right next to your icon saying virtual desktop. So I'm sure it's been frustrating and confusing. Maybe you could give it more context around that. Right. So since the beginning, I've been trying to stay a step ahead of Oculus. Back in 2014, when I started working on the ability to use your computer in VR, I remember I interviewed at Oculus, but they weren't really interested. So I kept working on it on a side project. But then in 2016, when my app launched, it was one of the most popular app on the platform. So, you know, they were interested in buying my app, the intellectual property. But at the time I said no, they didn't really offer anything that was worth it. But they also, like Darshan, they also told me things like, oh, we're going to develop something, you know, and we're going to put a lot of manpower into that. So are you sure you're not, you know, they really kind of pushed me into joining them. And, you know, they didn't threaten me, but they said things like, You know, we're going to develop the same thing. We're going to include it in the platform and have a better integration and all that. You know, I was like, yeah, sorry, I'm just going to keep doing my thing. Cause I think I've got something really great. And, and so that was for the PC version of the app, which they eventually released in 2016. The Ruckus was called the time Oculus desktop, which kind of had the base functionality of my app built into their platform. And, you know, since then, my sales have kind of tanked on the Rift platform. And also because they eventually named it Virtual Desktop just to add insult to injury. And so my sales there haven't been great. But then on Steam, it's still doing good. And then on the mobile side, same thing where I released the wireless streaming feature and a few months later, they released something similar. So it seems that I'm probably working on things that people love and they realize it and then develop the same thing. Yeah, it's unfortunate that they're not working with developers and trying to help them build better stuff. Instead, they just look at Oh, what's the most popular app? Okay, let's develop our own thing. And just try to own this space and screw the developers. Really, that's, that's how I see it. It's pretty sad. Yeah, that was a lot of what Darshan was saying is that, you know, they have the ability to see what people are doing in VR and the people that have bought it. So they're able to get insights of the different stats and they're building a platform so they can have that transparency, but Have you had any conversations of like, Hey, maybe you should try not cloning your developers apps. Or I mean, in some sense, it's like kind of a ruthless business decision that I don't think it's illegal for them to not do that. But it just, again, goes back to this conflict of interest between developing a platform versus trying to compete with your developers that you're trying to cultivate an ecosystem around. Yeah, I mean, you know, I could have hired lawyers and try to sue Facebook. But you know, I really want to spend time and money on that. Not really, like, you know, I just want to develop cool tech that people can use. That's all I want to do. I don't really want to get into the whole suing company stuff. So it's really unfortunate. You know, I did ask them not name it the same as my app, because for users, it messes things up. Because some users reach out to me and tell me bugs. And I'm like, are using virtual desktop the app or using the virtual desktop from oculus that because that bug doesn't seem related to my app so so a lot of times i get support requests for the oculus part which is not related to me so it's super frustrating when that happens so i have to tell them no no you don't have the app the app you have to buy it or then i get reviews that says something's like why did you use the same name as the oculus thing it said cash grab whatever though I was there first two years before them and you know it's frustrating. Well, so Darshan also mentioned, and I saw in your Twitter threads that there are certain features that Facebook has access to, let's say the pass-through camera for augmented reality. On one hand, there could be potential privacy concerns around having third-party developers have access to the full, what can be seen through the pass-through. And then there's other ways that maybe that could be not even sent back to you and you're not even seeing it. So maybe you could talk a little bit about some of those features that if Facebook wants to really own the computing virtual desktop type of functionality, then they're in some ways holding back some of the features that they could be giving developers that they're going to have this advantage towards. So maybe you could talk about some of those features that you see that you would love to be able to start to play around with and that given that Oculus has full access to this, that they're going to potentially be able to surpass what you're able to do because you have limited access to some of those features. Right. So yeah, on Quest, there are four cameras, so you can see your surrounding in a pass-through mode. And so since the Quest came out, really, I requested, I said, oh, it'd be nice if, as developers, we could You know, I want to create an environment and virtual desktop, which is the pass through so that you can see your virtual monitor on top of what you have around you. Some of the kind of an AR approach things. So the way they could do it is simply to give us the ability to say, draw the pass through but don't give us access to the actual video data feed right so that we can't do any like object detection or anything like that. I don't really need any of that. I just want to be able to render the pass-through within my app. And right now, it's still not possible a year later. And I find that very frustrating. Because I think it was earlier this year, they released their prototype of office type application where you see pass through with monitors overlaid on top exactly what I asked for a year ago. And they're like, Oh, yeah, here's a prototype, something we're working on. I was like, Come on, I have the app ready to do that. Why not give developers access so that we can develop things? So instead, they, they just develop their own thing. And screw developers, you know, they don't really care about me and they just develop their own thing. So it's super frustrating. I see the same thing with Darshan where he asks for things and then he just gets another one. So Well, there is a ARVR strategy document that Mark Zuckerberg had emailed out on June 22, 2015. Blake Harris, when writing the History of the Future, got access to this email and published it in TechCrunch, leading up to the publication of History of the Future back in early 2019. And in that document, Mark Zuckerberg says that there's these three tiers. There's the app experiences layer, there's the platform services layer, and then there's the hardware. And he listed those in the order that he thought were the most important. So the app's experience is the most important, then the platform services, second, and then third, hardware. And Mark Zuckerberg says that Apple has been able to kind of do the opposite flip, like to have the hardware be at the top, the platform services, and then Apple is less interested in creating competing services, although that does happen in Apple's case as well. But I think the main point there is that I think we're kind of seeing this play out in specific developers like yourself and Darshan where they do want to have the app experiences And that, you know, there's this great paradox, which is that we wouldn't have the level of VR that we have today unless Facebook bought Oculus, because, you know, it's arguable that Valve would have not done everything that they did to be able to have the competing aspect. But there's been a market dynamic and a lot of innovation. They've spent billions of dollars. And so I could see as a strategy that would make sense that they would want to potentially not just focus on platform services, but potentially create some of these apps. I guess my problem is that they're not necessarily always clear as to communicating to that ecosystem what they're going to do. And then, but in the way that businesses now, they have no obligation to. So how do you resolve that? Where it's not like they're going to tell you exactly what they're going to do. They're in no uncertain way, they try to tell you, Hey, you know, guess what? We're going to be competing with you. That could be seen as a kindness in some sense, but at the same time, like, you know, So I don't know, like, how do you resolve that? Because I can't point to one thing and say, okay, you know, what would you prefer that they do differently in these cases? Well, I wish they would focus on the hardware and the API's and give power to developers to develop things. I wish they would spend less time on things like Horizon and on developing competing apps for stuff that are already in the store. They should instead, you know, I just saw some previews of stuff that are going to be announced, things like keyboard pass-through or couch, that they're going to be able to trace them in the Guardian system. I think those kind of things are the type of things they should be working on, not compete with existing developers. So what they probably want to do is stay ahead of Apple, who might be jumping in the scene at some point or other competitors. I think if they have good ecosystem of apps and successful developers, I think that's much more powerful than having the top seller app within Facebook. Like the Beat Saber thing, I don't understand why, how is that important for them to buy Beat Saber, for example? They were doing just fine. They're selling millions. like sure you can maybe sign better deals with better artists and things like that because now you're Facebook, but in reality it just makes the monopoly bigger. That's all it does. I know that Sony had bought one of the major developers of the platform, so there could be a bit of the major players getting sold to other companies that then have platform exclusives. I mean, it could be that the licensing deals and whatever, like owning media consumption may not have been as viable, or at least Facebook wanted to own that area and expand out into other ways, cultivating those relationships with the music industry. seems like a pretty good reason for why they would might want to do that. But also, I don't know if they're going to be starting to turn in some of these into platform exclusives. As I look at how technology develops and evolves, there is this dialectic between closed and open. And it's arguable as to see like, maybe the closed model is what we need for a little bit and then move into a more open competitor. Because we do have a lot of, I don't know how many titles are on Steam, but it's in the thousands and thousands. Maybe two to five X more than what's on the Oculus Store around 2000. So whatever that factor is, there's a lot more noise that you have to sit through. And I love open source and I want everything to be open and But when I see it, there is a bit of that vertical integration that happens with something like the iPhone. And maybe that is going to prove out the experience enough so that eventually we can have more open competitors. Because I don't know, I hope that there's a continuation of that open dialectic, but I can see why they're going down that route. And it seems to be working on some sense. The unfortunate thing is that the side effect of that walled garden is that it starts to ostracize independent developers like yourself. Right, exactly. So what they're doing, essentially, is owning all the popular it so that if someone else releases a headset, they can negotiate and say, Okay, you make your game available to our headset, and we'll make ours, they can negotiate. But then you end up with two giant monopolies, or three, or, and then all the independent developers are kind of left squandering for the, you know, it's like on the phone app stores nowadays. something like 10 apps make a lot of money and the rest is just peanuts, right? They get almost nothing. So it's very, very hard to be a successful mobile developer today. And I kind of see the same trend going with VR where only a couple apps at the top are seeing good revenue and then the rest are barely surviving. So it's just an unfortunate approach that they're taking with Sony. I don't know. That's why I don't do business. You know, I just I'm a developer. I don't want to make those decisions because I hate those things. Is it just you developing it? Or do you have a team? It's just me full time. I have some contractors to help with art and a bit with coding some things, but mostly it's just me. And I think I saw at some point that I don't know if virtual desktop was one of the apps that was like grossing over like a million dollars. Can you speak to just how relatively and you don't have to give specifics, but it seems like it's done pretty well. And like, if you could sort of expand on how well it's been doing. Sure. So the numbers that I can reveal are that for the first year on Quest, it did 3 million in revenue for one year. So it's pretty good. And that kind of beats out the other in terms of sales, it beats out the other platforms easily. Because the number of people who buy the app on Quest is much higher than all the other headsets combined, right? So yeah, so on Quest, it's doing very, very well on PC, it was successful also in the beginning in the early days. But yeah, I'm very lucky because I'm able to do this full time. And I think only a handful of indie developers are able to work in VR full time, because it's still a very small market. So I'm very lucky. I have to say that so that people don't say, Oh, he's complaining, but he's like at the top and selling a lot of copies. Yeah, I am. But I'm mostly concerned for the indie developers who are not as fortunate and who are having trouble, you know, staying alive today. Yeah, one of the things that Darshan said is that if he was launching today, they probably wouldn't even let him on the App Store. And I think that's probably going to be true in your case as well. Do you think that if you were launching today that you'd be able to be accepted? I mean, it's hard. I know some competing apps have launched now on Quest, similar to my app, as far as just desktop streaming. So I think it's still possible to release something if you have an original idea and it's good. The problem now I think is that the bar to get into the Quest Store is very high and the feedback that Oculus gives you when you submit your app is basically zero. They tell you yes or no and that's it. You don't know what's wrong, why they refused it or anything. So if you spend a year working on something and they tell you no, you just wasted one year of your time. And they say, oh, release it on Rift, but maybe it doesn't really work on Rift. It needs to be wireless. Like there's so many things that go into that. So I think they should have a better approach. It's good to have a curated storm for that. I think it's good to remove all the shovelware, but there should be a way to experience other apps that are maybe not as polished, but that look promising. So I think a lot of developers are having a hard time right now because they can't get into the Quest store. Well, and as you lay that out, and if the Quest is the most popular platform that's out there and that continues to have that market dominance, and at the same time, they are essentially cloning a lot of your basic features or independently developing it, you know, it's a good idea. It's useful, obviously. as being one of the most popular apps, then you've tapped into ways in which that people actually want to use that feature. The thing that's interesting to me is that there seems to be this other aspect, which is that if you look at Epic Games versus Apple, as well as in Epic versus Google, having a monopoly on a platform means that you don't have other competing things in. And so Apple has been shutting down cloud streaming of different games because they're not selling that game on their payment system. And so by your having that streaming to be able to stream from your PC, that means that people could buy a game on Steam and then stream it within Oculus ecosystem, that seems to be like, for me, at least a bit of an existential threat. And we've already had like, revive and other ways in which that there's ways to play Oculus games without having a quest and, you know, they can also, they can also buy games on the Rift store. And a lot of people do, right? If a game says, Oh, we're gonna have a quest version soon. And some people want to try it out, they'll buy it on the Rift store, because there might be cross buyer. And so It's just a matter of putting the right incentives in so that people buy it from their store. I don't think they're going to see a loss of revenue from people using virtual desktop. I think it's the opposite. What users tell me is that with my app, it kind of extends the possibilities of things they can do with their Quest. So I think it will sell more headsets and more content in the end versus me not being there at all. So I don't see it as a negative at all. I think it's the total opposite. I think my app will attract customers and will get people to buy headsets and to do more VR in general. So I don't see that as a negative. Well, it seems a little precarious to have a whole like separate black market, in some sense, the side loading of SideQuest, it feels like, you know, they are a business that's also selling apps on some of the cases, it seems like you're maybe giving your app away for free, but it doesn't work unless you buy it through the Aqua store. But right, but I don't think they're making a profit. I don't think we're making a profit from app sales. Developers can put their app there, but they're sold through other stores like itch.io or anything, but SideQuest itself doesn't make any money from app sales. It's not a separate store. It's just a place to download free or paid apps, but they don't collect any money. The only money they make, I believe, is from ads in their app. Okay, well that legally that probably puts them in a better position as not not and to just be streamlining the sideloading process, which you know, it's great that they've decided to allow developers to sideload that's a decision that like facebook is a weird blend between Google and apple because it's running the android operating system that allows people to sideload stuff like you can't just sideload apps on the Sony PlayStation, and Apple doesn't let you sideload apps. And so you have this weird mashup between the closed walled garden mindset of Apple versus like this sideloading Linux driven Android operating system of Google, and kind of mashing those two together. So it's a weird blend. But I guess I worry about if they try to somehow pull the plug on that type of sideloading, they would, in some ways be undermining their developer ecosystem to be able to use that. But they could do that. They could start to lock that down if they really wanted to have more tight controls on some of that once they have maybe enough market penetration where they're just going to start to potentially revoke some of that ability to do that side loading, which if they do that, then they would essentially be cutting off a lot of the features that people are really buying your app for in the first place. Yeah, if I had to guess, they probably didn't have the time to develop their own OS when they first released the go and the quest, right. And they had near VR running on Android already. So for them to build a completely new operating system and all that would have taken way more time. So I think it's kind of by accident that they happen to have side loading in there because they're using Android. But I think it's just time before they develop their own operating system and then probably more than outside loading if i had to guess because it looks like they're copying apple for most things right through the app store for the way to design things And Apple is a completely closed ecosystem. So that's probably my guess is what's going to happen is probably not this fall, but sometime in the future when they released a new headset, it's not going to be running on Android and they might kill sideloading at some point. Maybe not. I would be happy if they kept it that way, but who knows. Yeah, I know that Alex Heath from the information has reported that they are in development of writing their own operating system, because they do want to be in complete control of their destiny moving forward. They don't want to have to rely upon any external company, mostly Google and any other sort of third party library, maybe even developing their own game engine, who knows as they move forward, because they tried to, you know, they were debating and wanted to buy Unity. Yeah, they wanted to buy Unity, but they obviously didn't. And so, yeah, just to be able to have that full control. I mean, the thing that gives me hope in some sense is that they're a participant in the OpenXR, meaning that they're potentially having the same level of APIs that could allow developers to write an app and to be able to have it across different platforms, or to potentially have access to, like, say, Blender or something, and to be able to hook in and to be able to use natively something like the Quest if you're doing streaming, to be able to do 3D modeling and to maybe have in the future more native integrations or if you're running Minecraft VR on your computer and you want to stream it to your Quest. I don't know if you've looked at those different types of things of like, you know, Minecraft VR is going to be shipping with OpenXR. I don't know if that means that they can run it on your PC and then stream it to the Quest through the virtual desktop. So right now, the existing version of Minecraft, it runs on the Microsoft Store on Windows. And unfortunately, those games and apps cannot be injected. So that means that I cannot tell the game to use my runtime instead of the Oculus one, because the way it works right now is kind of a hack, where when the game launches, I tell them, oh, instead of loading the Oculus library from here, load it from here, and it's actually mine. So I do the streaming and pretend like I'm the Oculus runtime. But with apps and games that are in the Microsoft Store, it's currently not possible to inject those and to bypass. So right now, it's not possible for people to stream Minecraft wirelessly, the version, the bedrock version that's from the Microsoft Store. But you can play Vivecraft, which is on Steam, right? That works fine. Well, from a security perspective, that sounds a little dangerous that they would probably want to shut that down. Yes, but the thing is, it's kind of a historical reason it's still in Windows, because some apps essentially use that technique. And yes, it's a security call, if you want, but because so many apps in Windows are, you know, have existed in the past, it's not something they can just decide, oh, there's no more injection in the next version of Windows, then like it would break a lot of apps, right? Okay, so that's more of the Windows operating systems feature there. Okay. Yeah, it feels like we're moving into a realm where they're going to want to have more control over their operating system where they don't have to sort of deal with some of that. But still having Rift run on Windows means that they have to deal with some of that as well. So as well as, you know, Steam. Yeah. Well, let's talk a little bit about what else you're working on in terms of virtual desktop. What are the big things that people want that you're like developing right now? So right now, I'm working on Mac support for the mobile version, so you can stream your Mac, the desktop, not VR games, because there are no VR games that run on Macs, sadly. So just the desktop. And I'm working on a bunch of other things, which I can't really talk about too much, because if I say, probably some people will copy. And so I have to keep my heart slow. But yeah, I'm working on a lot of cool things for the mobile version. And so I'll have a bunch of updates over the rest of the year. I'm pretty excited for what's coming and I look forward to the new headsets that supposedly releases in a few weeks. I don't know. I haven't had a chance to know anything about it. So I'm looking forward to it. I'm sure we'll be learning more about all that in Oculus Connect 7. I keep saying Oculus Connect 7. It's going to take a while. It's Facebook Connect 1. It's going to take me a number of years to be able to say that. Well, maybe you could talk a bit about like, how are people using it? What are some of the stories or anecdotes that you hear, like the type of stuff that people are able to do with virtual desktop? Well, a lot of people use it for different reasons. Some people use it to watch movies, like they're in bed, their partner is right next to them, they don't want to disturb them with the light, right? So they put the headset on, they watch a movie. You can simulate being in a movie theater, but in fact, you're in your bed. So very comfortable there. Some people use it to play games, either remotely, when they're outside of their home, they stream desktop games from their computer, and they play them like in a virtual screen. Some people use it for work, although by itself, I find the resolution to be too low to be productive and that kind of stuff. But some people actually do some basic web browsing and work on there. And on the PC side, a lot of people use it for the video player. I think it's probably the most popular feature there. So play all kinds of 180 360 videos. And it's just an all around cool feature out there. So you can do almost anything. So what do you think the resolution needs to be in order to do like coding on a VR? Well, right now at 1440 p per eye, that's about the equivalent of 720 p monitor resolution, right? So I think we would need 4K per eye before we can actually replace monitors with a VR headset. And it has to be a lot more comfortable too, it's not just resolution, it's also the weight, you know, does it heat up? You have to be able to wear those comfortably for hours for people to work in there. And so I think we're still a long way before people can be productive and say, oh, I don't need a monitor anymore, I just need my VR headset to work. But it will get there, I'm sure. And how do you use Virtual Desktop? Myself, I don't really use it all that much. I just really develop it every day. I just work all the time. I haven't had a break in a long time. So I work like 10 hours a day, every day of the week. And just working out some cool features that people are asking for. And, you know, all the features that I've added so far are just ideas that the community has given me. They use my app. Oh, it would be great if you could do that or do that. I just have to filter through and keep the good ideas and implement them. Have you been able to play, like, what's the last game that you really enjoyed playing through streaming? I played Half-Life Alyx through my app and it's a lot more fun when you don't have a wire and you can just play, you know, in your living room and your computer's in another room. Like, that's awesome where you can just play wherever is most comfortable. And so I played maybe for 40 minutes, I think. That's as long as I played. But it was a great game. I loved it. Yeah, I mean, it's surprising that the Quest actually has a pretty equivalent resolution than I think the Index. Is that right? Yeah, a little lower than the Index. I think the Index is 2160 by 1600. I'm not sure exactly what the resolution, but yeah, the Quest is slightly lower. I think the advantage of the Index, if I'm not mistaken, is that it's an LCD panel, so there's less screen door effect and there's a higher pristine pixel density because of that. So the Quest is actually a pretty good headset. And if you would have to ask me, I believe that we're only going to see Quest in the future. I think the Rift is essentially dead. And I think the NES headset is going to be one headset to rule them all. It's going to do mobile and PC VR. If I was Oculus, that's what I would do at least. Well, if you say buy this, this headset, and you know, it's super cheap, and you can do streaming from your computer, you know, if they implement that in some fashion, then I could see that they would probably be moving towards it. That seems likely as to the direction that they're going. Right, right. I mean, it's the future. I mean, I'm sure that you won't have any wires, that's for sure. And you could still have the ability to tether it in if you don't have a good network. or you want to get slightly better latency, you can always plug it in. I think that's really the future of where VR headsets are heading. So in my home, I have upstairs where my PC is, and I have downstairs where I usually do most of my Oculus Quest playing. Can you stream between floors, or how do you determine whether or not you're going to have good enough bandwidth to be really far away from your computer? So the five gigahertz band that we have today, what we call AC routers, that's Wi-Fi five, they have a bit of trouble going through walls. So if you have just one wall, it might be okay. If you have two walls or your different floor, it might not be great. So you can get a mesh router system where you have multiple base stations spread out in your home that usually helps. So that's what I have here. And so I can play on different floors and the performance is great. If you just have the router that's provided by your internet service provider, it's usually not that great, right? They kind of cheap out on those and they just give you whatever just works. They say, oh yeah, it has five gigahertz. Yeah, but it has a crappy processor on it. So it doesn't perform well. So if you get a good dedicated router or a mesh system, you can pretty much play anywhere in your home and it should perform well. Are there a lot of people that use VR desktop that have set up like these mesh networks in their home in order to be anywhere and be able to play VR from their PC? Oh, yeah, yeah. That's the most popular setup, I think, from what I hear from Discord is people use mesh networks from either Asus or Netgear. Or if they don't, they try to be in the same room as the router, right? Not so the computer, but the router. And it's important to wire your computer to your router to get the best performance because Today's routers, people don't know that, but they can't send and receive at the same time. So if your computer is connected wirelessly and your Quest is connected wirelessly, only one of them can communicate with your router at a given time. So they kind of take turns. So if you both have them wirelessly, it's not going to perform well. If you have a computer wired via ethernet to your router, then that's when you get the best performance because you only have one device that's sending and receiving on the Wi-Fi. Okay, that's good to know. Yeah, I have my ethernet set up here. So I haven't actually set it up. For me, I'd love to be able to play like Google Maps and things that are not launched and to be able to like explore around and stuff and, and to be able to do that on the quest. But you know, I Google Earth is great. It's awesome. What are some of the most popular apps? Do you know about people that you hear from people using? Yeah, Google Earth, Half-Life, Saints and Sinners, The Walking Dead, it's a very popular game. And almost every week, whenever there's a new PC VR game that comes out, you know, people are playing it, people are talking about it. So it's kind of funny because whenever there's a big game launch on the PC side, I see an increase of users who buy my app and who use my app because there's a new game coming out. So they're further streaming it to their Quest. So it's very interesting. Well, for you, what do you personally want to experience in VR? That's a good question. I hope that one day I'll be able to work and replace my monitors. That's something I hope I'll be able to do. But like I said, it has to be comfortable. It has to be something I can wear and not be bothered by it. I think at some point it will replace cell phones, not in the near term, but I think in the long term, it will be able to replace cell phones. But it needs better input. And right now our input is kind of lame where it's just controllers and the hands isn't that great. So if hand tracking can become better, that will take a while. But if it can become better, I think it will be a very powerful thing to have and to wear. Well, it's sort of a funny situation where they have that saying of the cobbler's children have no shoes, you know, like someone who's working in VR, but yet, you don't actually have a lot of time to play in VR. And so I'm just curious, like, what really motivates you to do this? If it's not to have the experience of VR as much as to like, just solve the problems? Or what's really driving you to do all this? That's a good question. Because in the early days, I was really interested in trying all the games that came out. But nowadays, I just work on it and I just, you know, when I'm done working, I want to stay away from the computer. I want to do something else, but I don't want to go in the yard. So it's very strange. The only time I get to try things now, it's mostly to research, see how other people are doing things, to give me ideas and stuff. So, yeah, I'm not the best person to recommend games or to... Lots of people ask me, my family, oh, which game should I play? I don't know, really. Well, finally, what do you think the ultimate potential of virtual reality might be and what it might be able to enable? Well, it depends how long term you see it. I think at some point, I think it will just not be VR, but it will be AR as well. Whether it's through cameras that we have AR, I think that will be the first step towards that. But I think the two are going to merge where you can see the real world either through cameras and then eventually we'll just blend with the actual real world. But I also see a place where VR could still have its cool experiences where you're totally blocked from the rest of the world and you're totally in. It's hard. I don't like predicting the future because I'm not really good at that. But I'm really happy to be working in that field because I really truly believe that it's the future. like there's no other technology that well except for maybe brain implants that will but it will eventually use vr right so if you are able to control your phone your computer through brain machine interfaces eventually you'll be able to control also your games and whatever experience you have in vr so not to sound too dystopian, but something like we see in movies where we are hooked up to the machine and just don't move and stay in a comfortable position, right? It's probably going to come to that, I believe. All going to be plugged into the Matrix. Exactly, yeah. I'm more of a skeptic when it comes to implanting chips into the brain, just because I think that we have millions of years of evolution that have evolved our sensory input. That's pretty good to just use that, rather than to have to try to hack our brains with injecting technology into it, with not really knowing the full unintended consequences. John Carmack was saying, yeah, they're using c++ code and Bluetooth to be able to communicate with their brain computer interface. And I'm like, do I really want like a foreign government being able to hack into my brain? It's like, no, no, I don't. I don't want that. It doesn't sound appealing to me. If you have software that controls electrodes in your brain, then that doesn't, that doesn't inspire confidence. No, not with what I know about computer security. There's always some sort of gap and hole. Well, is there anything else that's left and said that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community? Well, if you're a developer and you want to work on cool things, I think the VR space is really like an open market. There's so many possibilities today. And I know I might sound depressing when I talk about all the bad things that Facebook does, but I think it's a great space to be working in. And if you have good ideas and you have time and patience, I think it's definitely worth your time to develop in VR. And I hope that all the other indie developers out there become successful and can work on that full time, because it's really fun to be working in that field. So thank you for having me. Yeah, thanks for coming on. I think you're doing a lot of pioneering and innovative work and clearly you're solving a lot of needs in the market. Like Darshan had said in the conversation I had, it's those independent developers in that open market where the competition allows for lots of different innovation to happen to just withhold some of these features and to take this more monopolistic approach, I think it provides a disservice to the dialectic of competition, of having different approaches and different ways of solving the same problem and creating those types of market dynamics. It's sad to me that there could be a holding back of what the potential of VR is because of that arbitrary withholding of these things because they want to completely own and control it. Anyway, I just, I feel like that your story is kind of encapsulating a lot of that element. And it's good to see that you've been able to do as much as you can just to see that there are alternatives that are out there. And hopefully you'll be able to continue to reach your audiences in the way that you do and to continue to push the medium forward of what you're making. So anyway, thanks for joining me here on the podcast. Thanks for having me. It was a pleasure. So that was Guy Gooden. He's the creator of Virtual Desktop, which was first released in 2014, and he's gone full time working on it since 2017. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, well, this is an instance where it's really difficult to know the deeper intentions for why Facebook is doing this. You know, there could be completely legitimate reasons if they thought that this feature was not fully baked, if it was making people sick. You know, he is saying that you have to have a good PC and all these different conditions in order for it to work properly. And in fact, some people have even gone to the extent of setting up like a wireless mesh network within their home in order to have the wireless streaming work across different rooms, across different floors. So with the current five gigahertz bandwidth, you know, it does have this loss when it comes to going through walls. So if you're in the same room and same router and you have a good PC, then Guy is saying that, you know, it works fine. I did have an opportunity in a briefing about Oculus Quest 2. I had 15 minutes to ask different questions, and I actually asked about wireless streaming. And, you know, what I was told is that it's like 70 to 80 percent there, and it's not quite to the point where they want to start shipping something yet. And I said, yeah, but Guy Gooden said that if you have a good enough PC, then it seems to work fine. And also if you want to set up a mesh network, then it also works fine. And I think the response that I got was essentially that they're trying to make it so that if you have like minimum spec PC and maybe like it was unclear as to what the minimum specifications for this feature to be working would be, but they've found great variants in that. And they want to be able to provide a solution that just kind of works for everybody out of the box. whether that's a piece of hardware or whether that's some other software solution. I think there's a lot of internal debate about this very issue. And in fact, in John Carmack's Unscripted, he actually went into this a little bit, saying that there's an existence proof of a lot of people that are finding a lot of value out of what is presumably what Guy's solution to this wireless streaming is. I'm just going to play that short little clip from John Carmack and then, you know, unpack that a little bit more. Here's what he said during his Unscripted live talk at Facebook Connect One.
[00:49:57.958] Guy Godin: We still haven't announced a full wireless connection system for Link. We have these interminable arguments internally about this, about quality bars. I keep saying that I love the fact that I have existence proofs where whenever we argue about this, I can say, right this very minute, someone is using a wireless VR streaming system and getting value from it. It is not as good as being wired. It is not as good as we might hope. It might not meet your personal minimum quality bar, but it is clearly meeting some people's minimum quality bar and delivering value to them because they keep coming back and doing it. I continue to beat that drum where we should have some kind of an error link.
[00:50:40.663] Kent Bye: So it seems to be an ongoing debate within Oculus slash Facebook about, you know, how exactly to address this issue from Carmack's perspective. He seems to see that there are people that are out there like the existence proof of people having a good experience with this. And I think if you look at the reviews of virtual desktop and. look at the usage, then certainly there's a lot of people that are interested in this specific feature, especially as we move forward in the Rift S. All those lines are being stopped, and so this future of tetherless and wireless streaming is going to be what I think is going to be the future. I'm sure that they're going to want to find their own built-in system and solution to this because, you know, they want to be able to have one headset to be able to do both PC VR and mobile. And that's like the vision. And with the link, it's not quite there yet. And that was one of the things that Guy said is that, you know, if they want to say that it's degraded performance, then the link is degraded performance doesn't work for everybody either. And so there's still a lot of different software and hardware things to be figured out there. So if they're going to take that as a baseline, then there's already sort of degraded performance. And in fact, in some situations that people can see a better performance from using G solution, which, you know, people have to go in and buy the application from Aqua store, and then That gives them access to be able to run the virtual desktop patch from the side quest, which is where that feature was able to live. Facebook also announced at their Facebook connect that they're going to have like their own like side quest solution, where it's going to be a way to be able to distribute. It's essentially unlisted apps. It's not going to be revealed in the searches, but if you have your own link and you want to kind of pass out your own keys. perhaps even do your own selling of these different apps. It's going to be rate limited for how many people can actually download it, which I'm not sure what the specific reasoning or details behind that is, but there's going to be at least ways for people to have an opportunity to distribute these different applications to provide updates and to even hook into some of the Oculus APIs without having to go through all of the approval process within the store. That's another option that's coming. And I think it, for me, it raises all these different questions as to like, what's the future of side quest side quest seems to be happy that this is happening, that it's just yet another distribution platform. So we'll see what type of freedom may or may not be limited as we move forward to see if something that Guy is doing is going to be even limited in the future. One of the other, I guess, unanswered questions is if there's maybe some other intentions for why this was pulled, if it has to do with being able to stream a Steam game from your PC onto your Oculus Quest. Is there some sort of reason why that is just an existential threat to the business model of having a game that was not purchased through the Oculus Store to be able to be running on Oculus hardware? This is the same reason why Apple has shut down a lot of the game streaming And they're saying there's different security issues and whatnot. But at the end of the day, that privacy and security could be used to enforce their own monopoly to say, in order for anything to be run on this platform, then it has to go through our store. It's really difficult to know if that's the actual reason. It could actually come down to the technical reasons that they're saying. And that, as Carmack is saying, there's internal debates as to if people are on one side or the other. There could be business reasons that are also thrown in there that are helping to reinforce some of those technical debates. So again, it's really unclear, but I do think that in the future we're moving into this world where we want to have like a single tablet, this mobile headset, and it works both for if you want to stream it to your PC, VR, or if you want to just have it as a mobile device. So currently it seems like virtual desktop has one of the most robust solutions that are out there. I haven't personally set it up for myself yet, so I still have to do that just to test it out and The XR2 chip actually has some new specifications that may actually change some of the quality of the streaming. So we'll have to just wait and see to see if there's other folks that are reporting an improvement in the quality of streaming that comes through the wireless streaming feature of Virtual Desktop. So all the cloning aspects as well just seems to be fitting into a larger pattern from Facebook, which is, you know, there's a number of different developers who have started to complain about this to different degrees. I know that there's other developers that are out there that are going to be potentially speaking out more in the future. And so. I have the situation where the platform owner is not just creating an agnostic tech platform, but they're also doing all this data mining, monitoring what is working, and then potentially just taking what's working and to create their own clone of that as they try to expand out their apps and services that they're going to be providing. So certainly there's a lot of people that have been interested in the virtual desktop, and they've not only cloned it, but they named it the exact same thing. which, you know, trademark law says that, you know, you have to have a very specific name, and maybe virtual desktop was not really even trademarkable, and so that's just, I guess, on-key to not name it something more specific. Or if you did try to trademark it, and, you know, there's just, like, a courtesy as to whether or not you're gonna call something the exact same name as one of your independent developers. So there's, like, different trade-offs there for why they named it the exact same. I'm not a patent lawyer or anything like that, but... Anyway, it just seems like that this could fit into a larger pattern of Facebook cloning different applications that seem to have a lot of attraction and seem to be taking off. So I think we'll probably be hearing more about that here in the near future as more of those developers that have those different types of grievances start to come out and speak up more about their experiences of potentially being cloned by Facebook and Oculus. 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 if you enjoyed the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listener-supported podcast, and so I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.