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Facebook Announced Updated AR Capabilities for Oculus Quest 2, Accessible through the Innovative Mixed Reality Apps Featuring Experimental Passthrough API

Social media giant Facebook recently announced that Oculus Quest 2, the patented AR headset by Facebook, will incorporate experimental support for Passthrough API via a forthcoming update to the Quest Development SDK. This proposed update will enable Unity developers to build improved augmented reality experiences and other features for Quest 2 apps.

Initially, Oculus Quest was not designed to be an AR headset. However, its striking Passthrough camera capabilities proved that it could manipulate AR functionalities surprisingly well. It is impressive to an extent that when you use the Passthrough view as the default background, the main menu and Quest boundary float against the backdrop of the play space, thus making it a remarkable AR experience that was already available on the contraption for some time.

Reserved AR capabilities

To date, Facebook had reserved the AR capabilities and tools that could help build AR apps to themselves. But earlier this month, the tech giant has announced that it would soon unlock the AR capabilities and functions for third-party developers as well. This means that from now on, developers can build their own AR apps on Oculus Quest 2.

Passthrough API

The proposed AR capabilities, described as “experimental features”, would come in the form of Quest’s patented “Passthrough API”. It will be soon made available on Oculus Quest 2 via the v31 update to the existing Quest Development SDK. The expectation from the update remains that the independent developers will leverage the new AR capabilities in interesting ways to build innovative AR apps on the Quest 2. However, it is still unclear whether Facebook has any plans for extending the update to the original Oculus Quest.

The Passthrough API will enable the following AR capabilities in Oculus Quest 2:

Composition: Developers can composite various VR layers with passthrough layers through the existing blending techniques, such as alpha blending and hole punching.

Styling: This feature allows developers to apply tints and styles to their layers choosing from an existing predefined list. It can enable them to do things like customizing opacity, rendering edges, posterizing, etc.

Custom Geometry: This AR feature can render Passthrough images to a customized mesh, instead of default styling mesh.

According to Facebook’s media release, the Passthrough API is expected to yield more robust productivity applications. It has the potential to mingle virtual reality with your physical environment, opening new avenues for improved mixed reality experiences including gaming and social VR experiences.

Clearer view of the real world

Considering the existing marketplace, transparent AR headsets like Magic Leap and HoloLens provide a relatively clearer view of the real world with better colors. But thanks to the perfect latency and opacity control, Passthrough headsets such as Varjo XR-3 (and now Oculus Quest 2) are known for a better immersive field-of-view as well as more convincing visual imagery. Although Quest 2’s AR view remains black & white (also, low resolution), it is only a matter of time Facebook will put more effort into future AR headsets to improve the Passthrough view. For now, developers can start experimenting with the AR capabilities of Quest 2 via Unity and potentially publish brand-new AR apps for the users by the end of 2021.

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