Facebook unlocks Oculus Go VR headset for developers, tinkerers, and modders

The Oculus Go headset from the front.
(Image credit: Facebook)

The Oculus Go felt like an experiment in standalone VR when it first launched in 2018, a tentative first step towards tether-free VR gaming. It succeeded in proving a point, though: that standalone headsets had potential. Nowadays, Oculus is primarily a standalone headset brand with the popular Quest 2

It all happened rather quickly, too, and the Go swiftly became outgunned in just a couple of years. So what do you do with your ageing Oculus kit? 

In part thanks to Id Software founder John Carmack, who is currently consulting CTO of Oculus VR, you can now do whatever you want with it.

Oculus is now offering full root access to the Oculus Go system software. This new unlocked OS build allows any Go user to install whatever they want on their headset and ultimately repurpose it to their own needs.

Once the unlocked OS is installed you will no longer be able to receive any official updates from Oculus. That means you'll not receive any security updates or bug fixes on the headset through 2022.  That said, from 2023 onwards, Facebook will no longer support the Oculus or maintain the system software, which means from then on you're not missing out on much by keeping the locked OS installed.

You're not missing out on much today, either. Facebook has already put an end to any new apps or features coming to the Oculus Go through official means, so this newly unlocked OS is your best bet for safely installing new stuff on your Go headset.

Virtual reality

(Image credit: Valve)

Best VR headset: which kit should you choose?
Best graphics card: you need serious GPU power for VR
Best gaming laptop: don't get tied to your desktop in VR

If you want to install the new unlocked OS, just grab the build and follow the steps laid out on the official download page. Just bear in mind, if you b0rk your headset bootloading some dodgy app, that's on you. So be careful with your tinkering and installs if you want your Go to retire gracefully.

Opening up the software side of the Oculus Go is a step in the right direction, that's for sure. This headset could quite as easily have been left to rot after its manufacturer set the expiry date, but instead, it could receive a second-wind from savvy developers and programmers—one less device sent to an early grave in the e-waste scrap heap.

Carmack's a big proponent of open-source software, so I suspect this is largely his doing. Hopefully, while he remains at the helm of Oculus tech, we'll see more positive developments out of the Facebook-owned brand, which is still subject to much derision over its move to force mandatory social media logins on its VR devices. Root access is actually one way researchers bypassed the mandatory Facebook login on Quest devices, so I wonder if there'll be any plans to unlock that headset's OS when the time comes.

Jacob Ridley
Senior Hardware Editor

Jacob earned his first byline writing for his own tech blog. From there, he graduated to professionally breaking things as hardware writer at PCGamesN, and would go on to run the team as hardware editor. Since then he's joined PC Gamer's top staff as senior hardware editor, where he spends his days reporting on the latest developments in the technology and gaming industries and testing the newest PC components.