In our Apple Vision Pro review, we commended the headset for wowing us with its dual hand-and-eye-tracking system. Meta has now launched its own dual-tracking system for the Meta Quest 3 and Meta Quest Pro, though the eye-tracking has been swapped for handset tracking so you can use controllers and hands simultaneously – and people are already using it for foot-tracking.
Admittedly this feature isn’t entirely new. Since hand tracking launched it has been possible to swap between the two within apps that support both – though there was a delay when switching modes, and as soon as you put the controllers down they’d disappear from your view (making it a challenge to find them again, in VR).
This new ‘Multimodal’ method that tracks both at the same time has technically been around for a while too. It launched back in July 2023, however, it was in beta which meant official Quest Store apps and App Lab software couldn’t implement it. Instead, software using Multimodal tracking would have to be shared via third-party app stores like SideQuest.
Mixed interaction with hand tracking and controller tracking is finally active on Quest! What is the best way to use it? pic.twitter.com/uOXyjlcEimFebruary 16, 2024
Now with Quest update v62 it has launched fully (via UploadVR) meaning VR games and apps distributed through the native Quest Store can add Multimodal tracking for Meta Quest 3 and Quest Pro users. This not only allows apps to transition instantly from one method to the other, but it also means you can use controllers and your hands at the same time opening up new ways to interact with virtual worlds.
Perhaps we’ll see an adventure game where you wield a sword in one hand and perform Doctor Strange-like spells with your free hand, or existing apps that only use one controller could add some hand-tracking features – even something as simple as the ability to make hand gestures to improve communication in multiplayer games.
People who have been testing the feature have pointed out this new system could allow tracking of multiple body parts at once. In one example, Twitter user @Lunayian attaches Quest Pro controllers to their feet so they can use their hands and feet in VR without a complex tracking rig.
Unhinged foot tracking method is actually not as unhinged when used with Touch Pro 🤔 https://t.co/b2x6BzAary pic.twitter.com/ZPiTlggkCEFebruary 19, 2024
Unfortunately, the Oculus Quest 2 lacks the processing power to enable simultaneous hand and controller tracking with its base handsets. However, you could unlock this feature if you buy and pair Touch Pro controllers with the headset – they’ll cost you $ 299.99 / £299.99 / AU$ 479.99 for two – as they track themselves allowing the Quest 2 to focus on your hands.
You might want to hold off on picking up the Touch Pro controllers though, as while this feature is now live for developers to use in official Quest Store apps it’ll take time to see it in your favorite VR and MR software. Hopefully, we won't be waiting long.
Mark Zuckerberg has tried the Apple Vision Pro, and he wants you to know that the Meta Quest 3 is “the better product, period”. This is unsurprising given that his company makes the Quest 3, but having gone through all of his arguments he does have a point – in many respects, the Quest 3 is better than Apple’s high-end model.
It also lacks fitness apps. I’m currently testing some for a VR fitness experiment (look out for the results in March) and I’ve fallen in love with working out with my Quest 3 in apps like Supernatural. The Vision Pro not only doesn't offer these kinds of experiences, but its design isn’t suited to them either – the hanging cable could get in the way, and the fabric facial interface would get drenched in sweat; a silicone facial interface is a must-have based on my experience.
The only software area where the Vision Pro takes the lead is video. The Quest platform is badly lacking when it comes to offering the best streaming services in VR – only having YouTube and Xbox Cloud Gaming – and it’s unclear if or when this will change. I asked Meta if it has plans to bring more streaming services to Quest, and I was told by a representative that it has “no additional information to share at this time.”
Zuckerberg also highlights some design issues. The Vision Pro is heavier than the Quest 3, and if you use the cool-looking Solo Knit Band you won’t experience the best comfort or support – instead most Vision Pro testers recommend you use the Dual-Loop band which more closely matches the design of the Quest 3’s default band as it has over the head support.
You also can’t wear glasses with the Vision Pro, instead you need to buy expensive inserts. On Quest 3 you can just extend the headset away from your face using a slider on the facial interface and make room for your specs with no problem.
Then there’s the lack of controllers. On the Vision Pro unless you’re playing a game that supports a controller you have to rely solely on hand tracking. I haven’t used the Vision Pro but every account I’ve read or heard – including Zuckerberg’s – has made it clear that hand-tracking isn’t any more reliable on the Vision Pro than it is on Quest; with the general sentiment being that 95% of the time it works seamlessly which is exactly my experience on the Quest 3.
Controllers are less immersive but do help to improve precision – making activities like VR typing a lot more reliable without needing a real keyboard. What’s more, considering most VR and MR software out there right now is designed for controllers software developers have told us it would be a lot easier to port their creations to the Vision Pro if it had handsets.
Lastly, there’s the value. Every Meta Quest 3 and Apple Vision Pro comparison will bring up price so we won’t labor the point, but there’s a lot to be said for the fact the Meta headset is only $ 499.99 / £479.99 / AU$ 799.99 rather than $ 3,499 (it’s not yet available outside the US). Without a doubt the Quest 3 is giving you way better bang for your buck.
Vision Pro: not down or out
That said, while Zuckerberg makes some solid arguments he does gloss over how the Vision Pro takes the lead, and even exaggerates how much better the Quest 3 is in some areas – and these aren’t small details either.
The first is mixed reality. Compared to the Meta Quest Pro the Vision Pro is leaps and bounds ahead, though reports from people who have tried the Quest 3 suggest the Vision Pro doesn’t offer as much of an improvement – and in ways it is worse as Zuckerberg mentions.
To illustrate the Quest 3’s passthrough quality Zuckerberg reveals the video of him comparing the two headsets is being recorded using a Quest 3, and it looks pretty good – though having used the headset I can tell you this isn’t representative of what passthrough actually looks like. Probably due to how the video is processed recordings of mixed reality on Quest always look more vibrant and less grainy than experiencing it live.
Based on less biased accounts from people who have used both the Quest 3 and Vision Pro it sounds like the live passthrough feed on Apple’s headset is generally a bit less grainy – though still not perfect – but it does have way worse motion blur when you move your head.
Zuckerberg additionally takes aim at the Vision Pro’s displays pointing out that they seem less bright than the Quest 3’s LCDs and they offer a narrower field of view. Both of these points are right, but I feel he’s not given enough credit to two important details.
While he does admit the Vision Pro offers a higher resolution he does so very briefly. The Vision Pro’s dual 3,680 x 3,140-pixel displays will offer a much crisper experience than the Quest 3’s dual 2064 x 2208-pixel screens. Considering you use this screen for everything the advantage of better visuals can’t be understated – and a higher pixel density should also mean the Vision Pro is more immersive as you’ll experience less of a screen door effect (where you see the lines between pixels as the display is so close to your eyes).
Zuckerberg also ignores the fact that the Vision Pro’s screens are OLEDs. Yes, this will mean they’re less vibrant, but the upshot is they offer much better contrast for blacks and dark colors. Better contrast has been shown to improve a user’s immersion in VR based on Meta and other’s experiments so I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Quest headset also incorporated OLEDs – rumors suggest it will and I seriously hope it does.
Lastly, there’s eye-tracking which is something the Quest 3 lacks completely. I don’t think the unavailability of eye-tracking is actually a problem, but that deserves its own article.
Regardless of whether you agree with Mark Zuckerberg’s arguments or not one thing that’s clear from the video is that the Vision Pro has got the Meta CEO fired up.
He ends his video stating his desire for the Quest 3 and the Meta’s open model (as opposed to the closed-off walled-garden Apple has where you can only use the headset how it intends) to “win out again” like Windows in the computing space.
But we’ll have to wait and see how it pans out. As Zuckerberg himself admits “The future is not yet written” and only time will tell if Apple, Meta or some new player in the game (like Samsung with its Samsung XR headset) will come out on top in the long run.
Since the explosion in popularity of large language AI models chatbots like ChatGPT, Google Gemini, and Microsoft Copilot, many smaller companies have tried to wiggle their way into the scene. Reka, a new AI startup, is gearing up to take on artificial intelligence chatbot giants like Gemini (formerly known as Google Bard) and OpenAI’s ChatGPT – and it may have a fighting chance to actually do so.
The company is spearheaded by Singaporean scientist Yi Tay, working towards Reka Flash, a multilingual language model that has been trained in over 32 languages. Reka Flash also boasts 21 billion parameters, with the company stating that the model could have a competitive edge with Google Gemini Pro and OpenAI’s ChatGPT 3.5 across multiple AI benchmarks.
According to TechInAsia, the company has also released a more compact version of the model called Reka Edge, which offers 7 billion parameters with specific use cases like on-device use. It’s worth noting that ChatGPT and Google Gemini have significantly more training parameters (approximately 175 billion and 137 billion respectively), but those bots have been around for longer and there are benefits to more ‘compact’ AI models; for example, Google has ‘Gemini Nano’, an AI model designed for running on edge devices like smartphones that uses just 1.8 billion parameters – so Reka Edge has it beat there.
So, who’s Yasa?
The model is available to the public in beta on the official Reka site. I’ve had a go at using it and can confirm that it's got a familiar ChatGPT-esque feel to the user interface and the way the bot responds.
The bot introduced itself as Yasa, developed by Reka, and gave me an instant rundown of all the things it could do for me. It had the usual AI tasks down, like general knowledge, sharing jokes or stories, and solving problems.
Interestingly, Yasa noted that it can also assist in translation, and listed 28 languages it can swap between. While my understanding of written Hindi is rudimentary, I did ask Yasa to translate some words and phrases from English to Hindi and from Hindi to English.
I was incredibly impressed not just by the accuracy of the translation, but also by the fact that Yasa broke down its translation to explain not just how it got there, but also breaking down each word in the phrase or sentence and translated it word forward before giving you the complete sentence. The response time for each prompt no matter how long was also very quick. Considering that non-English-language prompts have proven limited in the past with other popular AI chatbots, it’s a solid showing – although it’s not the only multilingual bot out there.
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I tried to figure out how up-to-date the bot was with current events or general knowledge and finally figured out the information. It must have been trained on information that predates the release of the Barbie movie. I know, a weird litmus test, but when I asked it to give me some facts about the pink-tinted Margot Robbie feature it spoke about it as an ‘upcoming movie’ and gave me the release date of July 28, 2023. So, we appear to have the same case as seen with ChatGPT, where its knowledge was previously limited to world events before 2022.
Of all the ChatGPT alternatives I’ve tried since the AI boom, Reka (or should I say, Yasa) is probably the most immediately impressive. While other AI betas feel clunky and sometimes like poor-man’s knockoffs, Reka holds its own not just with its visually pleasing user interfaces and easy-to-use setup, but for its multilingual capabilities and helpful, less robotic personality.
Just as the Vision Pro launches, Meta has started rolling out software update v62 to its Meta Quest 3, Quest Pro, and Quest 2. The new software’s headline feature is it’s now a lot easier to watch your spatial video recordings on Quest hardware – stealing the Vision Pro’s best feature.
You’ve always been able to view 3D spatial video (or stereoscopic video as most people call it) on Quest hardware. And using a slightly awkward workaround you could convert spatial video recordings you’ve made using an iPhone 15 Pro into a Quest-compatible format to watch them in 3D without needing Apple’s $ 3,500 Vision Pro. But, as we predicted it would, Meta’s made this conversion process a lot simpler with v62.
Now you can simply upload the captured footage through the Meta Quest mobile app and Meta will automatically convert and send it to your headset – even giving the videos the same cloudy border as you’d see on the Vision Pro.
You can find the recordings, and a few Meta-made demo videos, in the spatial videos section of the Files menu on your Quest headset.
Admittedly Quest spatial video isn’t identical to the Vision Pro version as you need an iPhone 15 Pro – on the Vision Pro you can use the iPhone or the headset itself – but over time there’s one potential advantage Meta’s system could have. Non-exclusivity.
Given that other smartphone manufacturers are expected to launch headsets of their own in the coming year or so – such as the already teased Samsung XR headset created in partnership with Google – it’s likely the ability to record 3D video will come to non-iPhones too.
If this happens you’d likely be able to use whichever brand of phone you’d like to record 3D videos that you can then convert and watch on your Quest hardware through the Meta Quest app. Given its typical walled garden approach, you’ll likely always need an iPhone to capture 3D video for the Vision Pro and Apple’s future headsets – and Samsung, Google, and other brands that make smartphones may also impose some kind of walled garden to lock you into their hardware.
Other v62 improvements
It’s not just spatial video coming in the next Quest operating system update.
Facebook Livestreaming, after being added in update v56, is now available to all Meta Quest users. So now everyone can share their VR adventures with their Facebook friends in real-time by selecting “Go Live” from the Camera icon on the Universal Menu while in VR (provided your Facebook and Meta accounts are linked through the Accounts Center).
If you prefer YouTube streaming, it’s now possible to see your chat while streaming without taking the headset off provided you’re using OBS software.
Lastly, Meta is improving its hand-tracking controls so you can quickly access the Universal Menu by looking at your palm and doing a short pinch. Doing a long pinch will recenter your display. You can always go back to the older Quick Actions Menu by going into your Settings, searching for Expanded Quick Actions, and turning it back on.
A slick new advert for the Apple Vision Pro has just appeared on the official Apple YouTube account, just a few days ahead of the first shipments of the mixed reality headset being sent out to customers. Meanwhile, a new report claims that Meta now considers itself to be the headset's main, Android-style adversary.
The 68-second video has the usual Apple polish and a lot of the ingredients we've come to expect from Apple commercials – such as a classic pop song, aspirational lifestyles, travel, family and friends. It's called “Hello Apple Vision Pro” and the promise in the caption is that “you can do the things you love in ways never before possible”.
It's actually a helpful preview of some of the features and experiences that the Vision Pro offers: watching movies, working on presentations in a virtual 3D space, making FaceTime calls, bringing up images and video that wrap around your field of vision, and more.
As you would expect from an advertisement, it's somewhat selective in what it shows. There's no sign of the Vision Pro battery pack, and Napoleon is an interesting choice as the featured movie, because Ridley Scott's historical epic is seven minutes longer than the Vision Pro's official estimated battery life. You might need a recharge for the end credits.
We've already spent some time with Apple's headset for our hands-on Apple Vision Pro review, though not enough yet for a full review. Those first verdicts are going to be interesting, as will the impact of the headset on the augmented/virtual/mixed reality hardware market as a whole.
The Meta Quest 3 and Meta Quest Pro are now in direct competition with Apple's new device, but Meta executives don't seem to be overly perturbed by the Vision Pro's arrival. As per the Wall Street Journal (via 9to5Mac), Meta is hoping that the Vision Pro boosts interest in the tech in general, leading to more sales of the cheaper Meta headsets too.
Meta executives are “optimistic”, sources have told the WSJ, with the report going on to say that Meta is hoping to be the Android of the AR/VR/MR space – in other words, the main alternative to Apple, as Google's mobile operating system is on phones and tablets.
According to the WSJ, the Vision Pro has “influenced Meta's thinking” when it comes to embracing mixed reality experiences, and improving natural gesture control – Apple's headset relies on eye and finger tracking, while the Meta devices are primarily operated by physical controllers, with gesture support in testing.
Meta might have been a big – perhaps even the biggest – player in the VR world for some time, but newcomer Apple is already giving it ideas for features to add to its Quest headsets, and the first of these could be the ability to use your Quest VR wearable while moving in a car or on a plane.
Using a VR headset while traveling – especially on a packed plane – sounds like a no-brainer. Rather than having to contend with movies displayed on a small screen on the back of the seat in front of you, you can enjoy them on a massive virtual movie theatre screen and forget that you’re crammed into coach like a sardine.
However, while the idea sounds simple, it’s rather tricky to pull off – as one disappointed Meta Quest 3 user discovered when they struggled to use mixed reality on a flight. On Twitter/X, user @afoxdesign posted a rather amusing clip of their Quest 3 menu floating off into the distance while trying to use the headset on a flight.
In a reply to the post, Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth (@boztank) explained that the issue is caused by the plane’s movement throwing off the headset’s IMUs (inertial motion sensors). The sensors are picking up on the plane’s movement and acceleration, so your headset thinks you’re moving about and adjusts the position of virtual objects accordingly.
Encouragingly, Bosworth added that Meta is “Working on it” with regards to making it possible to use Quest headsets while traveling in a vehicle.
No, we use an IMU to keep objects localized relative to your headset motion so moving vehicles represent a challenge (when they accelerate in any direction). We also use the cameras, of course, they work together as the IMU is higher frequency but lower accuracy. Working on it!January 24, 2024
Back in May 2023 Meta showed off a demo where a Meta Quest Pro was being used in a BMW, with the car’s own sensors keeping the headset's IMUs in check. Unfortunately, this solution wouldn’t work for low-tech vehicles or commercial planes, where it might not be the safest idea to give random people direct access to the airplane’s sensors.
Option two, then, may be to introduce a simplified travel mode in which these motion sensors are turned off. Instead, the headset would use scaled-back tracking data and reference points to enable stable versions of static experiences like watching a video or playing a game through the VR Xbox Game Pass app – becoming a headset version of the Xreal Air 2 and similar wearable AR display glasses.
We’ll have to wait and see what Meta comes up with, but with Apple offering a solution to the using-a-headset-while-traveling problem, and Bosworth saying that a solution is being worked on, we’re hopeful that Quest headsets will be usable on a plane or in a car in the not too distant future.
To ring in 2024 Meta has announced permanent price cuts for the Oculus Quest 2 VR headset and its accessories. The 128GB model now costs $ 249.99 / £249.99 / AU$ 439.99, while the 256GB version is $ 299.99 / $ 299.99 /AU$ 499.99 – saving you $ 50 / £50 on either model in the UK and US, or AU$ 70 and AU$ 80 respectively in Australia.
As for the Quest 2 accessories, the new prices are as follows:
Elite Strap: $ 49.99 / £49.99 / AU$ 89.99 – down from $ 59.99 / £59.99 / AU$ 84.99
Carrying Case: $ 44.99 / £44.99 / AU$ 79.99 – down from $ 59.99 / £59.99 / $ 89.99
Elite Strap with Battery: $ 89.99 / £84.99 / AU$ 154.99 – down from $ 119.99 / £109.99 / AU$ 189.99
Active Pack: $ 59.99 / £59.99 / AU$ 109.99 – down from $ 69.99 / £69.99 / AU$ 99.99
Fit Pack: $ 39.99 / £39.99 / AU$ 69.99 – down from $ 49.99 / £49.99 / AU$ 69.99
While a carrying case is useful, the Elite Strap with Battery is the best upgrade if you’re looking for recommendations. It not only extends the battery life of your headset but also provides a more secure and comfortable fit, thanks in part to the battery acting as a counterweight to the headset.
That said, some third-party accessories are just as good, if not better, and cheaper to boot, so you might want to consider those instead, even after these price cuts. Also, you should note that these accessories won’t fit the Meta Quest 3 – so don’t pick them up thinking you can get cut-price add-ons for your new VR headset.
Meta hasn’t said why the Quest 2 and its add-ons have had a price drop, though our guess is that it's to enable Meta to clear out stock and make room for the newer Meta Quest 3, and a first step towards phasing out the old VR headset.
The Quest 2’s twilight years
VR gadgets becoming cheaper and more accessible is a great thing in our book – it means more people than ever can experience what the best virtual reality software has to offer. But this announcement is bittersweet.
As great as the Quest 2 has been – single-handedly making VR mainstream for a start – its time eventually had to come to an end. With the Meta Quest 3 now here, and replacing the Quest 2 as our favorite affordable VR headset, it makes sense that Meta would make 2024 the year it starts to sunset the older model.
That said, we shouldn’t get too carried away with eulogizing the Quest 2. It is still in production, and new VR software is still launching for the hardware – and likely will be for a while yet given how popular the gadget has been.
But this price cut is a sign that the headset is on the way out. We’d be surprised if many (or even any) Quest 2s were being made in 2025, and as time goes on the flow of new software will slow to a trickle before stopping completely – we’re seeing the beginning of this already, with new mixed-reality software being produced with the Quest 3 in mind.
So, as enticing as these price cuts are, be aware that the Quest 2’s expiration date is approaching. If you buy one now it’ll likely serve you well for a couple more years; but if you want a gadget that will receive full support for longer – and will deliver far better performance – then the Quest 3 is the Meta headset you want to buy in 2024, even if it is pricier.
If you're using a Meta-made virtual reality headset such as the Meta Quest 3, you might have noticed a disappointing development in the past few days: it seems that the ability to directly send the VR action you're immersed in to a big screen via a Chromecast has been removed.
As reported by Android Central and noted on multiple Reddit threads, the v60 software update for Meta Quest headsets takes away the option to beam the gameplay to a Chromecast dongle connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
While Meta hasn't come out and said anything about this publicly, it has updated the official documentation for its headsets: “Chromecast is not fully supported with Meta Quest” the documentation now reads.
The updated advice is to cast the VR feed from your headset to the Meta Quest app for Android or iOS, and from there to a Chromecast. You can also cast whatever's happening in VR to a computer, through the Meta Quest website.
What's going on?
If you're playing games in VR then of course you don't need to see the action on a TV set – but if you're playing with friends and family then it's really useful to be able to share what's happening on a different display that everyone can see.
Without any official comment from Meta (or indeed Google), we can only speculate about why the feature has been removed. It's possible that the functionality isn't reliable enough, or that Meta wants to funnel people through its own apps.
Even stranger, it seems that secondary accounts on these Meta headsets can still send gameplay directly to a Chromecast, while primary accounts can't, which suggests there's no technical reason for the feature being withdrawn.
If Meta decides to come out and say why it's taken away the ability to connect directly to a Chromecast, we'll let you know. In the meantime, it's now a little bit harder to share your VR gameplay on a connected television set.
If you’re a K-Pop fan who owns a Meta Quest headset or gets one for Christmas, Meta has a gift for you; free front-row seats to a BlackPink concert in virtual reality taking place on December 26 at 5pm PT / Wednesday 1am GMT / Wednesday 12am ACT.
The recording is from the group’s finale show of its recent World Tour – performed at the Gocheok Sky Dome – and will be available inside Meta’s Horizon Worlds metaverse platform.
And this isn’t some 10-minute clip show, this is a full-on 70-minute performance that has been custom-made for VR according to a Meta press release. It’ll feature a number of the group’s most popular tracks including Shut Down, Pink Venom, and How You Like That and more.
I’d recommend setting an alarm about 1 hour before the start time. This should give you time to install any updates if your app or headset isn’t up to date, get your avatar into the right outfit or created if you don’t yet have one, and go through the Horizon Worlds tutorial and into the Music Valley event space if you haven’t played it already.
From experience, I can tell you it’s better to wait for a while in the event than it is to try and hop in last minute and be stuck in long virtual queues that cause you to miss the concert.
Popular artists are known to cause server crashes when an influx of people try to load in all at the same time. Meta’s first big Foo Fighters VR concert suffered from this, and more recently Eminiem’s performance in Fortnite’s Big Bang event was missed by a lot of fans because of similar issues.
Thankfully if you do miss the BlackPink concert premiere because of server issues, simply can’t make it because of other commitments, or want to watch it again later, replays will be available until “the end of January” according to the official press release.
After Thursday’s surprise Xbox Cloud Gaming launch on the Meta Quest 3, I've spent most (read: too much) of my evenings trying the service out. And while it doesn’t hold a candle to my more traditional 4K TV and console setup from a technical perspective, its portability more than makes up for that.
For the uninitiated, Xbox Cloud Gaming is basically Netflix for video games. For a monthly fee of $ 16.99 / £12.99 / AU$ 18.95, you can stream titles from a massive catalog of content to your phone, PC, Xbox console, and now Meta Quest 3, Quest 2, and Quest Pro. The advantage, of course, is you don’t need super powerful hardware to play the latest games – they’re run on high-end machines many hundreds (maybe thousands) of miles away and just use your device as a screen and a relay for your controller inputs.
When playing in the real world, you’re limited to the size of your TV, phone screen, or computer monitor. In VR, you can enjoy playing these games on a gigantic virtual display – with the size becoming especially apparent when using the Quest 3’s mixed-reality mode. The Large and Extra-large screen options were bigger than any TV I’ve seen before – even the ridiculous displays shown off at tech trade shows – and it made me feel like I was gaming in my own private movie theater.
The trade-off is the graphics quality leaves something to be desired. Xbox Cloud Gaming can apparently stream 1080p (full-HD) at 60fps gameplay – but I’m certain the quality I experienced wasn’t this high. That's most likely due to a combination of the Quest 3’s display specs, my internet connection throttling the app’s abilities, and the gigantic virtual screen not giving visual blemishes anywhere to hide; instead blowing them up to make them more noticeable than ever.
Head in the cloud
Yet, when I lay in bed wearing my Quest 3 with the virtual display floating on the ceiling above me using mixed reality, I was still utterly lost in Starfield until the early hours of the morning. I only stopped when my headset alerted me that its charge was low and I realized it was well past 2 am.
This portability – to be able to play anywhere with a strong enough internet connection – is why cloud gaming in VR succeeds. You can play in bed, during your commute, at a coffee shop while waiting for your friends, or pretty much anywhere you can think of. Yes, you can stream Xbox titles to your phone, too, but the display is small, and the experience just isn’t as immersive as the virtual screen that wraps around you.
To this end, the VR headset is starting to borrow elements of the many AR glasses I’ve tested over the past year – the likes of the Xreal Air 2 or Rokid Max – and I’m pretty darn excited about it. These AR specs connect to a compatible phone, laptop, or games console using a USB-C adapter and virtually project the screen in front of you.
The clear advantage of the Quest hardware is it’s more than just a wearable projector – it’s a whole spatial computer in its own right that can do incredible things without any external hardware. What’s more, while the Quest 3 is pricier on paper – by about $ 100 / £100 / AU$ 150 depending on the glasses – once you factor in the need to buy a few not-so-optional add-ons to get the most out of AR specs, the cost difference is negligible (the Quest 3 might even end up being cheaper). Not to mention that you get far more bang for your buck from a VR headset.
While going fully wireless has advantages, having tried Xbox Cloud Gaming I’m now even more desperate for Meta’s VR hardware to start supporting wired connections to a greater range of devices. I’d love to use a Steam Deck, Nintendo Switch, PS5, and other gadgets in a similarly immersive way without needing to splash out on AR specs. Hopefully, such features will be added to the Quest platform in the not-too-distant future.
Some work is needed
Before Meta works on adding these capabilities, though, I’d like it and Microsoft to make a few updates to the Xbox Cloud Gaming app. Considering this app was announced over a year ago at Meta Connect 2022, I’m surprised it’s so basic and lacking a few features that feel like no-brainers.
The first is an easy way to position the screen. From what I can tell, the only virtual display controls within the app are the size options. If you want to move the screen to a different position – which is essential for playing lying down – you need to first press the Oculus button to open up your quick menu bar. Then, when you grab the bar to move it, the Xbox screen will move with it.
This workaround is effective but not intuitive; I stumbled into it completely by accident.
The second is an emulator so the Quest handsets can double as an Xbox controller. Admittedly, this may be tough, as the controllers are almost identical, but the Quest controllers lack the D-Pad and third menu button. Even if this emulated controller is only compatible with a small selection of titles, it would offer users a great way to test out Cloud Gaming before they invest in a wireless Xbox controller (they aren’t massively expensive, but they aren’t cheap either – they’re pricier than most VR games).
Lastly, it would be helpful if there was an in-app way to see how stable your connection is, see what resolution and framerate you’re getting, and choose if you want to optimize for graphics or performance.
All that said, despite its deficiencies, the Xbox Cloud Gaming app is a must-try – especially for those with an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription and compatible controller already. While I’ll still spend a lot of time gaming on my TV, I can honestly see this VR app becoming one of my most used in 2024. It might even convince me to start taking my Quest 3 with me everywhere so I can game on the go.