Last year’s Oculus Quest 2 VR headset remains one of the cheapest, but not necessarily recommended, ways to jump into virtual reality. But even I have to admit, his sales proposal got more appealing Tuesday with a belated announcement from reps on Facebook: two disabled features in the headset are now unlocked as a default option.
The first is a wireless VR mode, which Facebook calls Oculus Air Link, which will be available “soon” for headset-and-PC combos with compatible Oculus software. The Short Version: You’ll soon be able to connect your Oculus Quest 2 to a gaming PC with nothing more than a local Wi-Fi connection. This feature is supported in standard headset software, no additional apps are required. And it will essentially make connecting to your PC’s VR apps work the same as the VR apps built right into Quest 2’s storage.
“Not every network and PC configuration will be ideal”
“We know gamers want to use Link without a cable,” the announcement says, and sure enough, that cry is usually the loudest in our VR hardware reviews. No more wires in VRthe readers complain, and Facebook has responded with no more wires† But, god, do you? For real do you want to use this feature, folks?
Please note that Oculus Air Link is “experimental”. As Facebook says, “Not every network and PC setup will be ideal.” Connecting your headset to a PC via a cable (as in Oculus Link) is “the way to go” for most users and provides the “highest possible image quality”. Heck, the list of “known issues” says AMD GPUs can only stream wirelessly over Air Link on half the speed of Nvidia GPUs, even if you have AMD’s latest, high-performance products.
That abundance of caution for average users isn’t surprising, as wireless VR comes up against a significant burden of comfort and fidelity. If your local network can’t consistently deliver 72 fps or 90 fps of high-resolution images directly to your face, blurring or control lag can feel all the more serious. Some Oculus Quest owners already know this because they tested wireless VR modes as enabled through the third-party Virtual Desktop app, which always had to jump through at least one hoop for it to work.
However, with the right network conditions, Virtual Desktop has proven that Quest 2 is capable of streaming more expensive PC VR games to the cheaper Oculus Quest 2 with acceptable performance. And having these features built right into the firmware could prove even more efficient, although Oculus’ comments suggest a maximum of 200 Mbps upstream and downstream over local wireless networks, which is much lower than Virtual’s 1,200 Mbps maximum. desktop. We look forward to testing and comparing the two options.
120 Hz: “Soon”, but when? And for what?
The other key feature announced Tuesday is Quest 2’s panel refresh to a whopping 120Hz, up from the current maximum of 90Hz. It turned out that Quest 2’s single LCD panel had a 120Hz refresh rate all along, meaning it likely came from production lines that made screens at the same speed as a new standard for smartphone screens.
After a tease from a Facebook executive in February, former Oculus employee John Carmack confirmed in March that the feature would eventually arrive. “Only a few existing games will be modified for 120 [Hz]but some new titles will consider it an option in their design phase,” he wrote on Twitter†
Facebook’s official 120 Hz announcement confirms this plan, albeit in a different language: “Not many apps will support 120 Hz yet,” the statement said, and it doesn’t apply to the default “home” environment of the Facebook. hardware. There is no release date beyond “soon” for the rollout of this feature. At Ars Technica’s request, Facebook declined to list or hint what existing software might receive a 120Hz refresh update at the time.
In typical use of Quest 2, as a fully wireless headset with software installed internally, the 120 Hz mode may have a limited impact. Quest 2 hardware is already being pushed pretty hard at 90Hz speeds, which is why many Quest 2 games, including the wildly popular and Facebook-owned Beat Saber, stick to the lowest refresh rate of 72 Hz. Jumping further not only cranks up the SoC (and the cooling system) that much more, but also hurts the system’s already erratic battery life.
Dreaming of PC updates, plus productivity
As a connected PC VR option, on the other hand, the 120 Hz mode can be a serious treat, especially for PCs equipped to run VR games at such speeds. Higher refresh rates in particular seriously affect long-term VR comfort when sessions are longer than 30 minutes at a time. My earliest testing of the Valve Index, which natively supports 120Hz and 144Hz modes, revolved around using that headset as a virtual work monitor for hours on end, and what I said then still holds true: higher refresh rates make juggling multiple, floating work screens and panels all the easier on the eyes.
But while Facebook is vague about 120Hz modes for basic Oculus Quest 2 usage, it somehow agrees. Lake vaguely about the same coming to connected PC VR (aka Oculus Link). That comes in a “future release”, as opposed to “soon”. I wish it were the other way around, assuming one lasts longer than the other.
Everything I said above about using VR to run a virtual office is also clear in Facebook’s mind, as Tuesday’s blog post contained hints of productivity gains built into the Quest 2’s “home” interface. Among other things, the headset will soon allow you to place “a virtual desk on your real furniture” and it will start adding support for “Bluetooth-enabled keyboard tracking” while in VR.
This requires a compatible keyboard to get started, with Logitech’s K830 being the first supported model. Facebook’s latest sample GIF shows a 3D-rendered keyboard appearing in your virtual world, along with a black-and-white glimpse of your real hands typing on it. Switch between taps on the keyboard and gestures in the air with your fingers to control VR windows and interfaces like a mouse.
This is clear that Facebook is building on its finger-tracking system, which launched as a beta in the Oculus Quest 2 firmware in late 2019, and it’s a good hint of the company’s ambitions to make VR part of a balanced work-from-home diet. even if such features seem completely overdue for the pandemic feast. I’ve contacted Logitech about the K830 and plan to test it for a future article on whether Quest 2 might suit my remote office needs. Why buy a countless number of monitors when a single VR headset, combined with smart office hardware, could produce them virtually cheaper? (Even if Facebook’s built-in Oculus cameras are watching all the time.) I’ll test and follow up.