If you're really into virtual reality, are intrigued by the Oculus Quest 2, and yet don't want to tie a Facebook account to your headset, there may be a workaround on the way. A non-profit Right to Repair group says that a research and hacker in its community has found a jailbreak method for the Quest 2, allowing for use of Facebook's newest VR product without needing to sign into a Facebook account.
In a post to ReadyHackerOne.com published by the Extended Reality Safety Initiative or XRSI (via Eurogamer), the company says it has validated a way to get root access on the Quest 2, thereby allowing a user to bypass Facebook's required login. XRSI says that it is "currently working to gather assurances to protect the individuals who discovered these methods of jailbreak" and that it has learned of other researchers hacking the Quest 2 to gain similar access. The XRSI encourages any such individual to get in touch with concerns or questions about U.S. Right to Repair protections.
Prior to the Quest 2's release, Facebook's announcement of a policy change requiring a linked Facebook account for its new headset (and for all Oculus devices come 2023) garnered negative reactions from VR players and developers. The weeks since the Quest 2's launch have been marked by more annoyance and frustration from consumers over the account policy: Facebook's verification process has locked new accounts out of Quest 2 headsets and doled out mistaken bans to users who logged into multiple devices. Facebook has also confirmed that Oculus purchases are now forfeited when a user deletes their account.
While the Quest 2 is a mostly-solid VR offering on its technical merits, the account-related woes come at a bad time for Facebook. The company is also launching its own foray into cloud game streaming while diminishing the Oculus brand with these missteps.
The XSRI's mission is to extend the same Right to Repair protections granted to owners of other wearable electronics (fought for by organizations like iFixit and EFF) to the domain of so-called extended reality devices. That includes head-mounted displays for VR like the Quest 2 and augmented reality devices like Snapchat's Spectacles or Google Glass.
"Extended Reality(XR) devices directly interface with our bodies, gathering signals, and input from our eyes and body movements," says Kavya Pearlman of the XSRI. "A clear distinction needs to be made regarding the legality of tinkering with augmented and virtual reality devices. Such distinctions would protect curious minds from putting themselves at risk of ending up in jail."
Try as Facebook might to stop jailbreaking efforts on Oculus devices, hackers, researchers, and tinkerers likely won't cease their activity. While it's still fair to say that VR hasn't reached mass audiences, Facebook's earlier investments with Oculus helped grow the industry to where it is today. The less of a niche interest VR is, the more people will want their experience to either exist on an open platform or to at least be separate from a widely-distrusted social media giant.