Meta Halts Development of In-House AR and VR Operating System as Launch of Apple Headset Approaches
Meta has stopped developing its scratch-built operating system for augmented-reality (AR) and virtual-reality (VR) devices, according to The Information.
In a paywalled report published earlier today, The Information claims that Meta stopped the development of its operating system designed for Oculus virtual-reality devices and the company's upcoming augmented-reality glasses in November 2021, citing people familiar with the matter. Work on the operating system had reportedly been underway since 2017 and involved more than 300 Meta employees.
Existing Oculus devices, such as the Quest 2, run a modified version of Android called VROS, but Meta was designing a new OS from scratch to support its ambitions in the AR and VR space, a project known internally as "XROS." It is unclear why the project was abandoned, but the company could still revive aspects of the OS at a later date.
Going forward, Meta will focus on modifying an open-source version of Android for AR and VR use, rather than using its own in-house OS. The move is expected to save the company money and engineering resources, but ties Meta's AR and VR aspirations closely to Google in the long term.
The decision appears to be a considerable setback for Meta's long-term goal to be more independent and develop its own hardware. In particular, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been concerned for over a decade about the level of control that Apple and Google have over devices that are key to Meta's business model, leading to events such as Facebook's public relations battle with Apple over App Tracking Transparency.
Meanwhile, Apple is believed to be continuing work on "rOS," the operating system designed to run on the company's long-rumored mixed-reality headset and augmented-reality glasses. Apple is expected to become a major player in the "metaverse" with the launch of a mixed-reality headset as soon as this year, rivaling Meta.
rOS has reportedly been in development since at least 2017. According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, rOS is based on iOS, and includes Siri and gesture controls. It features basic applications and an App Store, as well as technologies for accomodating virtual meeting rooms and 360-degree video.
Apple already has a strong foothold in AR technologies with ARKit, which provides developers with tools to create augmented reality apps for iPhones and iPads, and the company frequently adds new AR-based features to its devices such as AR walking directions in the Maps app and the LiDAR scanner on the iPad Pro.