Meta Is Only Allowing A Few Quest Developers To Disable The Annoying Boundary In Mixed Reality

Quest mixed reality apps can disable the annoying safety boundary, but only a handful of whitelisted developers can ship this on the Quest Store and App Lab.

Boundary, formerly called Guardian, is certainly useful in virtual reality so you don’t leave your playspace and bump into furniture and walls. But in most mixed reality apps it’s superfluous, since you can already see the environment around you, and downright annoying because it means you can’t utilize your full room as a playspace.

In the v57 system software changelog Meta said “some apps with mixed reality” will no longer have Boundary. But the company didn’t say which apps this included, nor the mechanism for this happening.

UploadVR has now learned that any Quest app can disable Boundary when using passthrough by including the CONTEXTUAL_BOUNDARYLESS_APP flag in the manifest. However, the upload system for the Quest Store and App Lab will automatically reject any app version using this flag unless they’re on a special Meta whitelist.

Currently whitelisted apps include:

Cubism, which has seemingly been using this flag since Quest 3 launch.Espire 2: Stealth Operatives, which just implemented this flag this week.Meta’s own First Encounters demo, the introductory experience for Quest 3, which implemented this flag last month.Laser Dance, the upcoming room-scale mixed reality game from the developer of Cubism.

Digital Lode tells UploadVR that the boundary existing in mixed reality mode was the #1 complaint from Espire 2: Stealth Operatives customers before this update, resulting in many 1-star reviews and refunds.

Why Not Let All Apps Do This?

So why not let all developers use this flag and get rid of the annoying boundary in mixed reality? We asked Meta’s VP of VR Mark Rabkin a similar question on X around a year ago.

Yeah, we’re figuring out how to do that in practice. MR experiences vary and people are starting to flow fluidly between MR/VR, which is tricky. I totally agree that if you’re in a mode where you can see all around you, Guardian should be a lot more chill.

— Mark Rabkin (@mrabkin) March 9, 2023

Rabkin pointed out that some apps flow quickly between VR and MR, blurring the boundary between the two content types. And he does have a point. If an app uses passthrough as the background but is covering most of your view with virtual objects such that you can’t see your walls and furniture, shouldn’t the Boundary kick in?

However, Rabkin did agree that “if you’re in a mode where you can see all around you”, Guardian should be “a lot more chill”.

Meta’s solution for now is reviewing apps on a case-by-case basis to determine whether it’s safe to disable Boundary. This seems deeply unscalable, however, and the company will have to find a better solution if it’s serious about making Quest a mainstream mixed reality platform, and especially if it hopes people will one day wear its headset passively throughout the day.

That solution will likely include replacing Boundary with something better altogether – as was seen in clips found in the firmware in the months before Quest 3 launched.

Quest 3 ‘Smart Guardian’ Room Scanning Setup Leaked
Clips appearing to show room scanning setup for Quest 3’s mixed reality and ‘Smart Guardian’ found in firmware:

In contrast, Apple Vision Pro‘s approach to this problem is to fade all virtual elements to transparent if your head moves further than 1.5 meters from where you started or gets near real-world objects. This avoids a visible boundary, but limits you to a 3-meter diameter circle.