Meta Tests Horizon Worlds Model & Texture Importing With 'Titanborne' Shooter

Meta tested asset importing to overhaul Horizon Worlds graphics with a new shooter world called Titanborne.

The company described Titanborne as a "sneak peak at new features, improvements and creator tools currently in development", confirmed to be the model and texture importing features announced at Connect 2022 in October.


Currently Horizon Worlds creators build virtual worlds entirely inside VR, using the controllers to place and manipulate primitive shapes then using a spatial visual scripting system to add dynamic functionality. But this results in a crude simplistic graphics style that has faced widespread ridicule when seen in screenshots outside VR.

The ability to import models & textures should enable worlds with significantly improved graphics quality. “We started with simple graphics, and we’re doing a ton of work to meaningfully improve how Horizon will look and feel over the next year – the metaverse needs to feel inspiring”, Meta’s CTO Andrew Bosworth said in October.

Meta is currently also testing direct sharing of captured photos and videos to Instagram and Facebook Stories and members-only worlds for clubs, groups, and communities. In April the company opened the platform up to teenagers in the United States and Canada, a reversal of its previous 18+ policy.

Alongside the announcement of asset importing, Meta also said Horizon Worlds will get support for TypeScript, a popular programming language based on JavaScript, mostly used on the web, for “more dynamic and interactive worlds.” There's no indication Titanborne uses TypeScript, however.

A leaked internal Meta memo last year revealed that the executive in charge of Horizon Worlds believed it "has not found product market fit". Its competitors Rec Room and VRChat are almost always in the top 5 most popular Quest apps, while Horizon Worlds only makes the top 25.

Overhauling Horizon's graphics could be the key step needed to increase the appeal of the platform and expand the kinds of worlds possible to build in it. Meta also plans to add legs to the avatars and eventually overhaul their graphics too.

There's no word yet on when the features used for Titanborne will be available to other Horizon Worlds creators.

Meta Tests Members-Only Horizon Worlds

Meta Horizon Worlds is testing members-only worlds, enabling the platform to be used by clubs, groups, and communities.

Members-only worlds are progressing to a closed beta after beginning as an alpha test in January. Meta says the feature could be used to "host a book club, gather a gaming group", or "organize a support group".

These worlds are persistent, and continue to exist even when no one is online. They can either be publicly listed, so anyone can place a request to become a member, or unlisted so only those specifically invited to become members can join.

Each world can have up to 150 members, of which 25 can be online in it concurrently.

Members-only worlds are moderated very differently to public worlds. World creators can assign other people as moderators, and can decide to only allow the world to be visitable when at least one moderator is present. And members can file a report of rule breaking to a dashboard the world creator and moderators see, instead of only being able to report to Meta.

Meta says it will "slowly roll out the ability to create members-only worlds to a randomized group of people".

Horizon Worlds Getting 3D Model Importing To Improve Graphics Quality
Horizon Worlds is getting some significant updates to its creator tools. Creators will be able to import textured 3D models made in professional PC software instead of having to build everything from shapes inside VR. They’ll also be able to import Creative Commons licensed content from model host…

An internal Meta memo leaked to The Verge last year revealed that the executive in charge of Horizon Worlds believed it was overwhelmed with "papercuts, stability issues, and bugs" and "has not found product market fit". Meta has significant updates planned for the platform though, including 3D model importing, JavaScript support, and a non-VR launch for web and mobile platforms.

Social VR Platform ‘VRChat’ to Lose Quest 1 Support Next Month

As a part of its big send off, Meta has already deprecated first-party social features on the original 2019 Quest, which includes access to Parties and Meta Horizon Home. If you thought you could keep using Quest 1 with other social VR platforms though, your choices are about to get even more limited, as VRChat is soon dropping support too.

The studio announced it was dropping support in a recent developer update, stating that VRChat will no longer provide support for the Meta Quest 1 headset after June 30th, 2023.

“This is primarily due to Meta’s deprecation of the Quest 1 SDK, which will prevent us from keeping VRChat updated properly on the device,” the studio says. “You can continue to use Quest 1 with Quest Link, Virtual Desktop, ALVR, or other tethering methods to connect your Quest 1 to a Windows PC. Please note that those other applications may also be deprecating the Quest 1, so keep an eye on their announcements and news posts.”

VRChat isn’t the only app losing Quest support. One of the first to go, Meta’s BigBox VR already dropped Quest 1 support for its battle royale shooter Population: One late last year. Then followed Rec Room in early January 2023.

Meta’s Downpour Interactive announced in February its mil-sim shooter Onward will be dropping Quest 1 support on July 31st. Other games seeing upcoming support freezes include Myst, Zenith: The Lost City, and Synth Riders. We expect to see many more in the coming months, as the back catalogue of games is slowly phased or completely dropped.

High End Camera Maker Takes Its First Step into Consumer VR Software

First unveiled at CES 2022 early last year, Canon has now taken its first step into consumer VR software with Kokomo, its fledgling social VR platform. Compared to more full-featured collaboration apps, Kokomo isn’t there yet, but it’s a start in a new direction for Canon, which up until now has been mostly focused on XR hardware aimed at enterprise.

The Japanese optics and imaging giant announced that early access to its Kokomo social collaboration software for Quest 2 is now available in beta in the US and Canada.

If you didn’t hear about it at CES 2023 back in January where it had a pretty big outing, here’s how it works: you first use a mobile companion app to scan your face while making several expressions to generate a model of your head. Combined with the camera on your phone, you invite a friend to jump into Kokomo’s social VR environment where your avatar is essentially a mixed reality projection of you, replete with that face scan you did earlier to cover where the Quest 2 would normally obscure your eyes.

Realistically, the app still needs a lot of work. There are only a few virtual environments, which although plush, are simple backgrounds without much utility beyond looking nice. Moreover, the face scanning and projection on the mixed reality avatar feels a little too uncanny to give that face-to-face vibe the Japanese tech giant is going for right now. The fail state of Kokomo’s headset replacement is pretty funny too, as your mug can sometimes end up pasted awkwardly in mid-air.

Kokomo failing to position a face scan correctly | Image courtesy TechCrunch

Granted, it’s still in open beta, so we’re hoping to see some improvements in the near term before considering it over professional collaboration apps like Meta’s Horizon WorkroomsSpatial or Immersed.

And why Canon? The Japan-based company accounts for nearly half of all global camera sales, putting it in a good position to look for ways to integrate its high-quality optics in service of metaverse immersion. For now, it’s far from the most functional social collaboration tool we’ve seen, although the company’s commitment to sidestepping some of the inherent weirdness of avatars today (Zuckerberg has fake legs for you) by using what you already have in your pocket may show some real results with time.

Contrasted with something like Google’s Project Starline, which provides a stereo correct 3D chatting experience thanks to its host of sensors, light-field display, spatial audio, and computer vision—more akin to a telephone booth from the future—Canon’s Kokomo certainly takes accessibility to heart.

On the flipside, Canon has a number of XR devices which are largely focused on the Japanese enterprise market. Its most recent MREAL mixed reality headset is still very expensive—think 10s of thousands of dollars—making Kokomo the first step in an entirely new direction for the company.

We’ll be checking in on Kokomo as it progresses in the coming months. In the meantime, you can try it out for yourself by downloading the free app on Quest’s App Lab, and free companion app for either Android or iOS device.

Meta Opened Horizon Worlds To Teens In The U.S. & Canada

Meta Opened Horizon Worlds To Teens In The U.S. & Canada

Meta is opening up its online social worlds to teenagers in the United States and Canada.

Meta's official policies have limited Horizon Worlds to those age 18 and older since it launched, as Meta switched from backing the service with a Facebook account to rebranding its whole operation and launching Meta accounts.

Quest headsets are designed for use by those aged 13 and older, with "customized controls with age-appropriate settings" for those looking to connect in Meta's virtual reality.

"Teens’ profiles are automatically set to private, so they’re able to approve or decline anyone who requests to follow them," Meta's blog post explains in announcing the changes. "By default, we won’t show a teen’s active status and Meta Horizon Worlds location to other people in Worlds. Teens will be able to choose whether their connections can see if they’re active online and which public world or event they’re in."

Horizon Worlds remains a platform in transition, with Meta introducing a mature tag for its social worlds and then focusing on a "quality lockdown" even as plans were shared for a phone or Web version of the platform. With the latest expansion of the target market for Horizon Worlds, Meta is promoting a feature it announced last year that we first noticed in NormalVR's Half + Half games – garbled voices for strangers.

Voice mode "transforms the voices of people a teen doesn’t know into quiet, friendly sounds, giving teens more control over who can communicate with them. It also garbles the teen’s voice, so people they don’t know can’t hear them. We turn garbled voices on automatically for all teens by default within voice mode."

Meta claims to also be taking steps to "prevent interactions between adults and unconnected teens" with the example that "we don’t display any adults a teen doesn’t know in their 'people you might know' list."

Guardians can set up parental supervision "by inviting their teen to connect" through a Family Center or the Meta Quest app.

Meta to Open ‘Horizon Worlds’ Social VR Platform to Kids Ages 13+

Horizon Worlds, Meta’s social VR platform for Quest, is only open to 18+ users for now, however the company says it’s expanding to include teens aged 13 to 17 in the US and Canada.

Meta says the new policy will go into effect in “the coming weeks,” effectively opening the company’s first-party social platform to its entire user base in those countries; Meta only allows users 13+ to actually use Quest devices.

To prepare for the wave of younger users, the company is also releasing some age-appropriate protections and safety defaults.

Safety features will include the ability for teens to control who they follow and who can follow them back. Profiles are also set to private by default, which obscures active status and location. Worlds and events will have content ratings, so younger teens can’t get in.

A new voice mode feature is also rolling out to everyone, which garbles voices of both unknown people and teen’s voices by default. Raising your hand to your ear temporarily lets you hear other users when voice mode is switched on, Meta says.

“We’re rolling out to teens slowly, so that we can carefully examine usage and are taking a phased approach before expanding more broadly,” the company says in a blogpost. “We can’t wait to see everything these new members of the community bring to Worlds.”

Parents and guardians can use the parental supervision tools to manage their teen’s experience and “support healthy conversations about safety in VR,” Meta says. To learn more, check out the new Family Center.

The company also released a safety tutorial to see the new features in action:

While Meta only just released official word of those changes to Horizon Worlds, the news was actually first reported by The Wall Street Journal in February, which was based on an internal memo that alleged the social VR platform was under performing and needed to increase user retention to keep up with the competition. According to the memo seen by WSJ, Horizon Worlds’ weekly retention rate was 11% in January 2023, which the company aimed to increase to 20%.

A goal outlined in the memo maintained Worlds needed to reach 500,000 monthly active users (MAU) in the first half of 2023, ultimately reaching the one million mark by year’s end. At the time, it was reported the platform was hovering around 200,000 MAUs, or just below the December peak.

There’s no telling when the flatscreen version of Horizon Worlds is due to arrive, however Meta maintained it would be opening the Quest-only social platform to Web and mobile devices “soon.”

‘VRChat’ Now in Development for Android and iOS Devices

VRChat, the popular social VR platform, announced that flatscreen ports for both Android and iOS are currently in development.

The company says in a developer blog that while there’s still no release date on the books, the Android version has already been used by team members to attend large meetings.

Additionally, the Android version will support any world or avatar that works on Meta Quest, since the standalone also runs Android.

Here’s a quick look at an early build, which the studio stresses isn’t a final version:

VRChat on Android Mobile will only be available to VRChat Plus subscribers, the studio says, offering it as a beta to polish UI and UX before a full public launch. Beta access is expected to arrive to VRChat Plus members in three to four months. The full public launch on Google Play is expected in three to six months after the beta release, the studio says.

VRChat on iOS however is expected later, with more details to follow. The studio says it will be more complex, as content will need to be rebuilt for the iOS platform since it uses a different graphics framework.

The addition of iOS support is also slated to fracture VRChat worlds into three distinct supported platforms instead of the previous two, which for now includes PC and Quest. The studio maintains the situation is “[n]ot ideal”.

VRChat isn’t the first social VR app to offer flatscreen versions on mobile. Competitor Rec Room offers the widest network of supported devices, which in addition to VR support on Quest, PSVR and SteamVR headsets also includes flatscreen support for iOS, Android, Xbox, and PS4/PS5.

Meta’s own Horizon Worlds platform is also set to launch on non-Quest devices sometime soon, which will include both the Web and mobile versions.

Mobile Versions Of VRChat In Development, Android Release Coming Soon

In a new developer update, the VRChat team confirmed that it is developing mobile versions of its social VR experience, with an Android release coming first.

In the update, the VRChat team shared some footage of the game running on Android, but stressed that it was an in-development build and everything in the video is not finalized, but merely an indication that development is in progress.

The team says that it has been working on this mobile version “for a while” already and is already being used by some team members. The mobile version of VRChat for Android will only initially be available for members of VRChat Plus, the service’s optional paid subscription. The team plans to give members access to the mobile Android build within the next 3 or 4 months (subject to change), which will help them refine the UI and UX before a full public launch down the line.

vrchat mobile

The team says that any world or avatar that works on Quest will load “just fine” on this mobile build, as both systems run on Android. However, some more advanced world content with complex controls may need to implement changes to account for those using a touchscreen. That said, the team says that many worlds work great as is on the Android mobile version.

In terms of hardware requirements, VRChat says it requires a “mid-range device,” which it states is generally one including 6GB or more of RAM.

Regarding iOS devices, VRChat says they are working on a mobile version for iOS, but it is farther out than Android. “The challenge here is content, since iOS uses a completely unique and different graphics framework,” explained the team. “This means you would have to upload content built for iOS, which means three builds for one piece of content. Not ideal! So, we’re working on it. More on this Eventually™.”

VRChat is not the only VR service that has released – or is working – on a mobile-equivalent. Walkabout Mini Golf plans to release Pocket Edition for iOS soon, while competing social VR service Rec Room released an Android mobile version in 2021.

Rec Room Working On Support For Body Tracking And Hand Tracking

Rec Room is working on support for body tracking on SteamVR, and hand tracking on Quest.

Rec Room’s avatars are currently legless. Support for body tracking on SteamVR, such as strapping on 3 or more Vive Trackers, should arrive alongside or soon after the full-body avatars update, slated for later this year.

Full body avatars will be optional, and available regardless of whether you have body tracking equipment. Here’s how Rec Room describes how the system will handle users without body tracking, and the transition between standing and thumbstick movement for those with it:

In VR we don’t actually know where your legs and feet are located so we have to rely on an artist’s interpretation – since we do know where your head and hands are, we try to pose your avatar to respect your real VR pose.

However, if you’re using full-body tracking then we’ll know where your legs and feet are – so we can dynamically switch between using avatar animations and VR tracking information to pose your lower body depending on the situation.

While you’re running around we’ll continue to play animations on your legs – despite the fact your real legs aren’t actually moving – so that you appear to be running to other players in Rec Room. Once you stop walking in-game we’ll blend back to showing your real leg positions so that you can dance and pose however you like.

Body tracking is already supported in VRChat on SteamVR, while avatars in Bigscreen and Meta’s Horizon don’t have legs. Meta plans to add legs to its avatars some time this year, but they will be estimated by machine learning rather than driven by body tracking hardware.

Rec Room says its controller-free hand tracking will take “a little longer” than body tracking, suggesting it should ship late this year at the earliest.

Meta’s hand tracking tech was first released for the original Oculus Quest in late 2019, but is only now starting to be supported by social VR platforms. VRChat added support for it last year, and Bigscreen plans to support it later this year. Meta’s own Horizon Worlds doesn’t support hand tracking, but Horizon Home and Horizon Workrooms do.

The company shared some concept art of the new avatar hands driven by hand tracking, embedded below.

Watch AltspaceVR’s Final Moment As Worlds Go Offline

Microsoft’s AltspaceVR went offline on March 10 as users were ripped from their worlds.

You can watch the moment below and see what it was like as Microsoft pulled the plug to shut down the Altspace servers.

Microsoft bought the social VR startup in 2017 after it ran out of money, but the service found a small niche with some creators using its tools for meeting and presentation spaces. Austin “Cause” Caine and Christi Fenison, the duo behind a company called Cause & Christi, have used AltspaceVR for client projects over the years and found it “to be the most ‘professional’ out of the current choices.” The were present for the final moments of AltspaceVR and conveyed the experience in writing and video:

The servers were set to shut down at exactly 1pm ET so we gathered and waited to see exactly what would happen. As the final moment approached, the anticipation grew… and the countdown began. 10… 9… 8… 7… 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… 0… -1… -2… -3… wait a minute… we were all still here? News began to spread that new users could no longer log on. We were essentially the last survivors of a sinking ship, the band that played valiantly until the very end.

For just over five minutes we all reveled in this realization, wondering exactly when the true ending would come, and did our best to enjoy these extra precious moments together. Around 1:07pm ET everyone’s conversations were abruptly cut short as the world froze around us in a Matrix-like fashion. Reports later indicate this was the same experience for everyone. Not long after an official message from the AltspaceVR team popped up, and that was that.

Altspace’s closure was announced in January as executives implemented a wave of cost cutting measures at a number of tech companies. In advance of the shutdown, Microsoft enabled metadata downloads from Altspace worlds but didn’t enable full world downloads.

The closure note reads:

“This is sadly where we say goodbye. We leave you with one wish: take the light we’ve made together and share it with the world.”