Meta's new spatial framework could transform Horizon OS into a true Apple Vision Pro competitor

Meta Quest 3 with controllers on a yellow table
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Just a few days ago, Meta announced Horizon OS: its new open mixed-reality operating system that'll allow third-party headsets to run it and gain access to Quest apps. Now, it seems headsets running Horizon OS might be getting even more apps than originally expected.

According to Meta (via UploadVR), the company is currently working on "a new spatial framework that allows mobile developers to bring their apps to Meta Horizon OS." This means you could soon see your favorite mobile apps pop up on a Meta Quest headset (or a headset from Asus, Lenovo, or Xbox running Horizon OS).

This is similar to the strategy that Apple used with visionOS, allowing millions of iPad apps to be available on the Apple Vision Pro.

Meta wants Horizon OS to be the Android or Windows of the VR space

The biggest reason Meta wants to make Horizon OS available to third-party headsets (and develop this new spatial framework to support mobile apps) is to properly compete with Apple and its Vision Pro headset.

Right now, Android is Apple's only competitor in the mobile space and Windows is the company's biggest competitor in the computer space. But in the headset space, there's not a unified OS to go head to head with Apple's visionOS — that's a problem Meta wants to solve.

Meta Horizon OS is opening the door for a new era in mixed reality

(Image credit: Meta)

Right now, developing an app for Quest (even a simple one) requires working with a game engine. For many simple apps, this is overkill and too complicated. Apple's visionOS, however, lets developers build VR apps similarly to how they'd build mobile apps. 

The new spatial framework Meta's working on will allow mobile developers to easily "[bring over an existing app or [build] a new one from scratch" by using "tools [they're] already familiar with." It's not clear yet how the new framework might work for developers or how it'll compare to Apple's visionOS frameworks, but it seems like it'll bring more 2D mobile apps to VR headsets that don't require a full game engine.

In the announcement for Horizon OS, Meta said "we encourage the Google Play 2D app store to come to Meta Horizon OS, where it can operate with the same economic model it does on other platforms." While we might not see this happen soon, it's a strong move for the future of Horizon OS as Apple Vision Pro looks to find its footing in the market.

We're still in the early days of the AR/VR/mixed-reality headset space, but these are big moves by the biggest players, so we're in for an interesting time ahead.