Oculus' foray into AR

The Oculus Quest v16 update is rolling out these days, and with it comes a underestimated feature: Passthrough home environment.

Check out this video someone posted on YouTube to see what I mean:

While users have been able to switch their home environment (similar to a background when you’re using Oculus apps like the menu, the browser or TV) between a space ship, a cabin on a mountaintop and a few others, now they can choose Passthrough. This means that you can now access the app store, watch TV or surf the internet while you see your real world surroundings around you.

The Passthrough technology is nothing new. Quest users are already familiar with it from setting up the Guardian or the fairly recent Passthrough double tap feature. The latter lets you see your surroundings at any time when you double tap the side of your headset.

Passthrough uses the four cameras on the Quest to give you a real-time, black and white video feed of what’s going on around you.

The new Passthrough home enviroment might not sound like much, but it marks Oculus starting to dip its toes in AR. In a previous post[1], I have explained why AR and VR need to be seen as ends of the same spectrum, and why I believe video-based AR will be more useful in the near future (as compared to optics-based AR).

The Quest’s video feed is not yet perfect for AR, as the video is distorted at the edges and black and white. However, I fully expect Oculus to release more and more AR features within the Quest and eventually open up camera access to developers. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they released software updates to further increase the video quality, as they have done in the past. Furthermore, I believe that AR will be an integral part of their next-generation VR headset, which will for sure come with better camera hardware and software.

I’m exteremly excited about this direction, because AR-features are clearly a must have if we want to see a more widespread adoption of AR and VR, especially in the office environment and for other use cases outside of gaming. If you’ve got a Quest, check it out and you’ll see how different the feeling is when browsing in full VR and browsing in AR.

Join the discussion in this Twitter thread.

1: AR and VR are two sides of the same coin