XR Developer News - April 2024

XR Developer News - April 2024

Welcome to my monthly roundup of XR Developer News! As we're gearing up for developer conference season, Meta decided to drop a 'Horizon OS'-shaped bombshell in advance of the competition laying out the next phase of their plans. Let's have a look at all that happened this month that's relevant to XR developers, sprinkled with some analysis and personal opinion!

As always, if I missed anything, let me know through LinkedIn. And if this newsletter is valuable to you as an XR professional, subscribe to receive it by email as soon as it's available and I'd love it if you would consider becoming a paid Supporter at a few bucks a month.

Just a short shameless plug: I'm co-organizer of the in-person XR Creators Connect meetup in The Netherlands, and we just planned our third edition on June 25th, so if you're in NL at the time, register and drop by! We've got another really nice speaker lineup.

Meta Quest

Meta has been taking advantage of the gap between Apple's Vision Pro launch and its upcoming WWDC, to grab the spotlight and announce several big changes:

  • In a major change, Quest OS is no longer Meta Quest-exclusive and is moving onto third party hardware as Horizon OS. ASUS and Lenovo are the first partners to be announced, with respective focuses on gaming and productivity. It's an interesting change, as we're going to see what kind of difference a 10 year and tens of billions of dollars head start makes when this goes up against Google's rumored upcoming Android XR OS.
    • For developers this should generally be good news, as multiple different hardware form factors by different companies should expand the install base of XR headsets. Let's hope though that Meta doesn't manage to make Android XR a non-starter with this move, as Meta could really use the competition to keep it sharp and behaving in developer's interest.
A New Era for Mixed Reality | Meta Quest Blog
Today we’re taking the next step toward our vision for a more open computing platform for the metaverse. We’re opening up the operating system powering our Meta Quest devices to third-party hardware makers, giving more choice to consumers and a larger ecosystem for developers to build for. We’re working with leading global technology companies to bring this new ecosystem to life and making it even easier for developers to build apps and reach their audiences on the platform.
  • In a second major change, announced in the same blog post and detailed further in a developer blog post and FAQ, Meta is doing a major overhaul of the Quest Store's curation approach. While App Lab has existed for a while as a less-curated alternative, discoverability of App Lab apps and games was severely limited. Facing competition from Apple's less curated App Store on Vision Pro, Meta is now dropping the heavy-curation approach, and moving to a model with much lower barriers for access to the Quest Store.
    • Meta's stated concern has always been that the first experience of users new to XR has to be great for them not to drop out after a bad first experience, to then not try again for several years. I suppose the high install base, more XR-experienced audience, and not-least the competition from Apple, has made the decision tip the other way. Good news if you ask me!
A More Open Ecosystem For Developers
Meta is announcing Meta Horizon OS and Meta Horizon store, enabling an open hardware ecosystem that can run on a wide variety of MR and VR devices.
  • There is also a vague mention of a new spatial app framework for mobile app developers bringing their 2D apps to Quest (no wait, Horizon) OS. It's lacking any further details for now though, merely a link to apply for a closed alpha/beta.
  • In more regular news, meta released v64 of Quest OS (release notes). The most noticeable upgrade is to the quality of the passthrough video, which is visibly better. Meta also posted two blogs about some other developer-focused updates it pushed out in recent weeks. In a future update, I wouldn't be surprised if developers get more freedom to disable the boundary feature in mixed reality, which is currently not available to all developers yet.
  • All this progress is coming at the cost of Quest 1 support be eliminated piece by piece over time, but I think that's only natural, if you look at the jump XR tech has made since Quest 1, the limited number of Quest 1 headsets sold compared to Quest 2 and the cost to Meta and to developers involved in keeping up support for it.
  • At GDC, Meta had a massive program of session about developing for Quest, which were all recorded and are now available on YouTube. Definitely worth checking out if you're looking to get up to speed on the latest of the Quest platform in a quick way.
  • On the Meta Spark side of things, things were relatively quiet, with some tutorial videos posted (gallery portal template, dynamic shadows). Things are actually about to get more quiet as Meta Spark Studio is moving to a quarterly release schedule, in an effort to increase stability for developers. The new v181 is the first example of such a new release, and focuses almost completely on bugfixes.
Updating Meta Spark Studio releases | Meta Spark
We are changing Meta Spark Studio’s release schedule for the better.

Apple Vision Pro

Of course Apple hasn't been sitting still, and actually launched one major update with Spatial Personas. While it's early days, the step up from the previous flat Personas and the contrast to Meta's cartoony avatars is really significant. I highly recommend having a look at some of the videos recorded by users, as this is a notable step forward in XR capabilities. It really makes me curious when Meta will finally release something in the realm of the Codec Avatars it has been teasing for a long time, because Apple definitely stole a march on Meta by being first to launch this.

Vision Pro users explore what’s possible with Spatial Persons
Yesterday, Apple released a beta version of Spatial Personas to Vision Pro users. They are amazed at the telepresence this technology enables.

In other Apple news:

  • WWDC is going to be held June 10-14, with a predictable visionOS 2 announcement.
Join the worldwide developer community online for a week of technology and creativity.


  • Some beta versions of visionOS 1.2 have been shared, but there are no clear notable changes.
  • Gradual progress is being made in adding support for visionOS to Unreal 5.4. Doesn't seem like anything remotely close to production-ready though. If you're interested in this topic, Alex Coulombe is a good person to follow to stay up to date on the latest.
  • Unity in contrast is still making the best of being ahead in this area, with another webinar on visuals and shaders for Vision Pro.
  • VisionDevCamp was concluded, which seems to have been a nice event, and definitely showed off the largest concentration of Vision Pros outside of Apple's warehouses.

Software updates

  • OpenXR 1.1 was announced, with a bunch of improvements since the 1.0 version. If you really want to get into the details and backstory, Kent Bye did an interview with the leading voices behind it which is really good and also explains the basics of what OpenXR is very well.
    • OpenXR is pretty awesome, as it makes rolling out an XR game or app to multiple XR platforms (support is pretty widespread) a lot easier. Really, tip of the hat to all who have worked to make this possible. It's a damn shame Apple doesn't support it in visionOS, making it the single big holdout (which is fully in character for Apple, to be fair).
Khronos Releases OpenXR 1.1 to Further Streamline Cross-Platform XR Development
The Khronos Group announces the immediate availability of the…
  • Unity released v6.0 (actually v6.0.1 but that's the first official production release) of AR Foundation (what's new, changelog). Check out Andy Biar's rundown for full details. As expected, the related ARKit and ARCore packages have also been updated.
  • Niantic released v3.4 (release notes) of its Lightship ARDK with a few modest improvements. The updates to the simulator look nice and should make development on the platform easier. The World Pose addition is I think the first move I've seen in Niantic's VPS towards doing something with GPS locations. Interesting if that's the case, as it would move its VPS tech closer to Google's ARCore Geospatial tech.
    • If you want to know more about Niantic's VPS, they recently held a really in depth session which is worth watching. Afterwards you might be tempted to join their latest challenge ($15K prize pool, June 25th deadline), which is all about VPS.
Explore Together: Location-Based AR Challenge
A game jam from 2024-05-06 to 2024-06-29 hosted by Niantic Lightship AR. ⬆️ Click “Join Jam” to stay updated with the challenge updates 8th Wall Also, stay updated with challenge updates by joining the #challenges chann…
  • On the 8th Wall side of things, Niantic made a big splash announcing 8th Wall support for visionOS, but with the massive caveat that "Apple has not given the browser camera access", so it's really only WebVR that's possible. Obviously that makes one pose the question what the value of this is, beyond the marketing headline, as 8th Wall is all about AR on web, not VR.
  • In other WebXR news:
    • The Wolvic browser (previously Firefox Reality before Mozilla ended active development on it) is switching from Gecko to Chromium. That's a pretty major move, but reading the blog post, I get why they made the choice.
Chromium Backend Beta - Wolvic
    • Babylon.js v7.0 was introduced. So were three.js v163 and v164.
    • Another interesting project to keep an eye on is Wonderland Engine, which aims to offer a web-first game engine and development environment. Their latest showreel has some good examples of what it's capable off.
  • Snap released a React Native wrapper for Camera Kit, which should make it easier to include it in any React Native app.
    • If you're into Snap Lens Studio, you might want also to check out the Lensathon it is running ($30K prize pool, May 12th deadline), some of the videos it created around that Lensathon, its Snap Partner Summit and Lens Fest in September and an interesting video it released about using NeRFs in Lens Studio.
Snap AR x Lenslist: The Spring Into Action Lensathon
Submit your Lenses by May 12 and get a chance to win your share of $30,000 prize pool!
  • TikTok released v4.0.0 of Effect House, although the changes seem to be more modest than the version number would suggest. TikTok is also having an Effect House Game Jam ($10K prize pool, May 8th deadline) and published a new video tutorial series about visual scripting.
Effect House Game Jam Challenge | TikTok Effect House
Want to win up to $5,000? Submit a TikTok game effect for the chance to collect a cash prize!
  • MRTK received an update with a bunch of small improvements including Core v3.2.0.
  • XReal released v2.2 of its SDK.
  • Tilt Five released v1.6.0 of its Unreal SDK, making it compatible with Unreal Engine 5.3.

Other XR tidbits

  • By far the best source to go insanely in depth about AR glasses, MR headsets, display, lenses, optics, and anything of the sort, is Karl Guttag's blog KGonTech. Karl has gone in depth with Jason McDowell (host of The AR Show, another giant in the field) about a long list of hardware he tried out at recent conferences. If you're really into this field, the trade-offs involved with the current state of the art tech, and a view of what's coming in the next few years, there is really no better you can do that this series (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4). Even if you only grasp 20% of it, you'll go away from it with a bunch of new insights.
  • The Webby awards (commonly known as the Oscars of the internet) were announced, with some nice pieces of work in the XR space:
    • Niantic's Wol based on 8th Wall won the jury award for 'Best Use of Augmented Reality'. Peridot also won several awards.
    • Gospooky's Restart a Heart Campaign won the People's Voice award for 'Best Use of Augmented Reality'. I had the great privilege to work with the team at Gospooky last year and can only confirm they are right there at the top of the field, especially in social AR. Well done!
    • They really knocked it out of the park, also winning the jury award and the People's Voice award for 'Best Use of Filters/Lenses' for The Barbie Takeover. Epic job!
    • Have a look at the winners for 'Best VR Headset Experience',
  • Dilmer Valecillos wrote a nice roundup of the Magic Leap content he created recently. He also pushed out videos about a few other topics (WebXR, visionOS). His videos are usually top notch and very solid, but it's good to realize that some of them are sponsored content (marked as such somewhere in the YouTube description). Great to see him do so well though!

Upcoming XR events

  • May 7th, 2024 - Unity webinar about graphics on Apple Vision Pro.
  • May 8th, 2024 - TikTok Effect House Game Jam submission deadline.
  • May 12th, 2024 - Snap Lensathon submission deadline.
  • May 13th, 2024 - Meta Quest Presence Platform Hackathon submission deadline.
  • May 14th, 2024 - Google I/O developer conference, likely with news about Android XR and the future Samsung headset built with it.
  • June 10-14, 2024 - Apple's WWDC developer conference, likely with visionOS 2.0.
  • June 18-20, 2024 - AWE USA, the mother of all XR conferences. Early bird ticket rates available until May 9th.
  • June 25th, 2024 - XR Creators Connect #3, an in-person meetup in The Netherlands which I co-organize, for people who are professionally active in the XR space.
  • June 25th, 2024 - Niantic / 8th Wall Location-Based AR Challenge submission deadline.
  • June 27-30, 2024 - XR Creator Con in Berlin, Germany.
  • July 29 - August 1, 2024 - SIGGRAPH, which is usually interesting with regards to the latest in computer vision research, also in the area of XR.
  • August 26-28, 2024 - AWE Asia in Singapore. You can submit talks until May 15th. Standard ticket rates available until that same date.
  • September 17-19, 2024 - Snap Partner Summit and Lens Fest.
  • October 29-30, 2024 - AWE EU in Vienna, Austria. Super early bird ticket rates end July 3rd. You can submit talks until August 6th.

A bit about this newsletter

Each month I try to round up all the interesting developments in the XR developer landscape. New hardware and software releases, hackathon, interesting tooling, etc. Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn, for instance if I missed anything which definitely should be in this monthly round up next time.

Hope it is useful!