One of the worst things about modern gadgets is you don’t always get to decide what happens to a device you own when the company discontinues it. But there’s good news for Oculus Go owners, at least — Facebook is unlocking the bootloader for the device and giving users full root access.
The news was announced by John Carmack, Oculus’ consulting chief technology officer, on Twitter (via the Verge). “We are going to make available an unlocked OS build for the Oculus Go headset that can be side loaded to get full root access,” Carmack said, noting that he had advocated for this option for years.
Something I have been pushing on for years is going to come to pass soon:
We are going to make available an unlocked OS build for the Oculus Go headset that can be side loaded to get full root access.
— John Carmack (@ID_AA_Carmack) September 24, 2021
The outlook for most connected gadgets is normally not so rosy. Generally, when a product is discontinued, a company will pledge to support updates and security fixes for a limited period of time. How long that period is will depend on the company, but once it’s over, the product is effectively “dead.” This can be true even if the device’s hardware is perfectly fine and capable of running newer software.
The Oculus Go was introduced in 2018 and was the company’s first standalone VR headset. But in 2020, Oculus said it was discontinuing the device to focus more on the Oculus Quest. At the time, Oculus promised bug fixes and security patches through 2022.
Unlocking the Go means that anyone with a bit of gumption can continue using the device or repurpose it. Carmack noted that “a randomly shrink-wrapped headset 20 years from now will be able to update to the final software version, long after over-the-air update servers have been shut down.”
That said, there was no official announcement from either Facebook or Oculus. Carmack said he expected the update would come from the Oculus website but didn’t elaborate on a timeline. He did note that this would be specific to Go headsets, with the hope that it might one day set a precedent for future unsupported headsets.
It’s unlikely that most people will go through the trouble of sideloading the unlocked OS, but it’s welcome news for modders — and a subtle hint that discontinued gadgets can find a second life if users are given the right tools.