Meta (formerly Facebook) introduced App Lab in 2021 — a new method of app distribution, allowing you to easily install non-Oculus Store games and apps onto your Oculus Quest and Meta Quest 2 (formerly Oculus Quest 2) headset.
Since launch, the Quest platform has operated much like a console, with a strict curation policy. The Oculus Store is the official avenue for discovering and installing apps on your headset, with developers submitting pitches to Meta to have their content available on the store.
However, App Lab gives Quest users and developers an alternate non-Store avenue for Quest content. Quest users and developers can use App Lab as an easy way to distribute and install experimental VR content from outside the Oculus Store. That being said, Meta doesn’t curate App Lab content quite as strictly, so the quality can vary — App Lab content is sometimes still a work-in-progress, unstable or of generally lower quality than official store content. App Lab apps can be free or paid, with multiple easy installation options.
Here’s how to install App Lab apps on Oculus Quest and Meta Quest 2.
How is App Lab different to sideloading?
App Lab and sideloading are similar in that both of them provide a way to install non-store content on your Quest. However, App Lab is Meta’s official solution for doing so, with a much easier installation process for apps and much less finicky setup process.
App Lab is not replacing other sideloaded content, nor does it mark the death knell for SideQuest. In fact, SideQuest can now be used as a directory for App Lab apps — more on that below.
How App Lab Works
App Lab content works a little differently to Oculus Store content.
Much like other platforms, the Oculus Store operates as a virtual storefront that you can browse, with everything visible in one place. Whether you’re browsing online, on your phone or in headset, you can see the see the entire catalog of Meta-approved content in the Oculus Store, all in one place.
App Lab doesn’t work this way — there’s no there’s no official centralized listing of every App Lab app available. App Lab is a service for developers to distribute content for users to install, but there’s no official way to browse a database of all App Lab content in one place.
Instead, each App Lab app has its own direct URL listing. Developers can choose to share and promote their app URL in any way they like — the URL presents users with basic info on the app and they can then add it to their library. Once it’s in your library, you can install the game on your Quest just like any other Oculus Store title — through the Oculus app or in-headset.
Discovering App Lab Content
There are a couple of ways you might discover App Lab content.
The simplest way is through a direct link — a developer or user may share a link to an App Lab experience, like this one, somewhere online.
Otherwise, if you want to browse through a list of App Lab content in a similar manner to browsing the Oculus Store, then the best way to do that is through SideQuest.
You don’t have to install anything* — on your computer or mobile simply head over to sidequestvr.com (click the App Lab button to filter the content on the homepage) or just visit SideQuest’s App Lab section directly. On the SideQuest site, you can browse through all major App Lab games and apps available for developers, as pictured above.
Clicking on a SideQuest listing for an App Lab game will bring up more information, along with a pink ‘Install App (Oculus)’ button — this will redirect you to the official App Lab URL/listing.
* If you do have SideQuest installed on your computer already, you can use the desktop client to browse App Lab content as well — it works the same way.
Adding App Lab Content To Your Library
Once you’ve got a direct App Lab URL open, you can purchase the content or add it to your library with the blue button on your browser or in the Oculus app (pictured above), just like you would with any other Oculus Store app. This will add it to your library, ready to install.
Installing App Lab Apps
You can either queue installation of App Lab content to your Quest via the Oculus app, or begin the installation manually inside the headset itself.
In the Oculus app, locate the App Lab content in your library, then hit the ‘Install on Headset’ or ‘Play Later’ button, pictured below, and choose the desired headset for installation.
Provided your headset is charged and in idle sleep mode, the Quest will then install the App Lab app in the background, ready for your next VR session.
If you’d rather begin the installation manually, put on your Quest and head to the app library. Your App Lab content should be visible under the ‘All’ category, alongside regular Oculus Store content, allowing you to begin the installation just like any other app.
There’s no way to begin installation from a computer — you’ll need to either use the Oculus app or the headset itself.
Browsing and Installing App Lab Content In VR With SideQuest
As of mid 2022, SideQuest released a VR app that lets you browse and install unofficial content, including App Lab games, entirely within VR using your Quest. If you want to ditch your computer and phone, and install App Lab content using just your headset, this is a fantastic option.
You will still need a computer for setup, to install SideQuest on your headset, but after that you can do everything directly on your Quest itself.
For instructions, head over to our guide on sideloading — follow the steps in the ‘First Time Setup’ section first, then follow the steps in ‘Easy Installer – SideQuest for VR on Quest’ section. That will run you through installing SideQuest and using it to browse, download and install App Lab content entirely on your Quest, without using your computer or phone.
That’s everything you need to know on how to find and install App Lab apps on Oculus Quest and Meta Quest 2. Any questions? Let us know in the comments and we’ll try to help out.
Looking for more guides like this one? Check out the New to VR? section of our site.
This article was originally published in February 2021, but was updated and re-published in June 2022.