Meta Quest 3’s new Travel Model lets you use the headset on a plane – and stop staring at the Vision Pro wearer in the next aisle

Augmented reality is taking to the skies as Meta is rolling out an experimental Travel Mode to its Quest 2 and Quest 3 headsets. Once enabled, users can enjoy content while on a plane, a function that wasn't possible due to certain components. 

Sitting in a moving vehicle, such as a car or airplane, can confuse the internal measurement units (or IMUs, for short) and, as a result, cause the headset to have a hard time tracking your position. 

But thanks to Travel Mode, you won’t have this problem. Meta says it fine-tuned the Quest headset's “algorithms to account for the motion of an airplane,” which delivers a much more stable experience while flying. It'll also level the playing field against the Apple Vision Pro, which has offered a travel mode since launch.

You connect the Quest 2 or 3 to a plane's Wi-Fi connection and access content from an external tablet or laptop or that is stored within the Quest library. Meta recommends double-checking if an app needs an internet connection to work, as inflight Wi-Fi can be rather spotty. This means that certain video games, among other content, may play worse. 

As far as in-flight infotainment systems go, most will not be accessible, except for Lufthansa, thanks to a partnership between Meta and the German-based airline.

Quest 3's new Travel Mode

(Image credit: Meta)

New content

Meta's partnership with Lufthansa will provide unique content that is “designed to run on Quest 3 in Travel Mode.” These include interactive games like chess, meditation exercises, travel podcasts, and “virtual sightseeing previews”. That last one lets see what your destination is like right before you get there. However, this content will only be offered to people seated in Lufthansa’s Allegris Business Class Suite on select flights.

Lufthansa Chess on Travel Mode

(Image credit: Meta/Lufthansa)

If you want to try out Travel Mode, you can activate it by going to the Experimental section on your Quest headset’s Settings menu. Enable the feature, and you're ready to use it. Once activated, you can toggle Travel Mode on or off anytime in Quick Settings. Meta plans to offer Travel Mode for additional modes of transportation like trains at some point, but a specific release date has not been announced.

A company representative told us Travel Mode is available to all users globally, although it's unknown when it'll leave its experimental state and become a standard feature. We asked if there are plans to expand the Lufthansa content to other airlines and travel classes like Economy. But they have nothing to share at the moment. Meta wants to keep their pilot program with Lufthansa for the time being, however they are interested in expanding.

If you're looking for recommendations on what to play on your next flight, check out TechRadar's list of the best Quest 2 games for 2024.

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YouTube Music’s web app now gives you offline downloads for travel tunes

YouTube Music’s browser app is giving Premium subscribers the ability to download songs for offline listening.

Details of this upcoming change originate from a Reddit user who posted multiple screenshots of the altered service. There’s not much to go off at the moment. The images show there will be a new blue Download button in between Save to Library and the three-dot expandable menu above an album’s tracklist. Clicking it causes a Downloading window to pop up in the bottom left-hand corner denoting progress. 

Downloads on Web App from r/YoutubeMusic

Once finished, you can head on over to the new Downloads tab on the Library page to find the song. A line of text underneath states music will stay on your device indefinitely so long as it connects to the internet “once every 30 days.” 9To5Google in their report states the feature will have filters allowing users to sort content by “Playlists, Podcasts, Songs, and Albums.”

Limited roll out

It’s important to mention that offline downloading may only be available to a handful of people. We happened to be one of the lucky few to have received the update on our YouTube Premium subscription (YouTube hasn't made any official announcement). If you look closely at our screenshot, the Download button is actually white instead of blue.

YouTube Premium with Offline downloading

(Image credit: Future)

Some online reports claim people are unable to download podcasts. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case because we were able to grab a couple of episodes. All you have to do is click the three-dot menu to the right of the play button and select Download. The podcast will show up in your Library soon after. This is a big deal as Google Podcasts will be shutting down this April in the United States, forcing listeners over to YouTube Music. It looks like the platform is preparing for the inevitable flood of new people migrating over.

Downloading podcast off YouTube Music

(Image credit: Future)

It’s unknown when this feature will officially roll out, although judging by its recent appearance, a release may be happening soon. YouTube Music users seem to be looking forward to getting the patch. On another Reddit post talking about the update, you’ll see multiple comments talking about how excited they are that offline downloading is just over the horizon.

In our opinion, you can't listen to music without a good pair of headphones. For recommendations, check out TechRadar's list of the best headphones for 2024.

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Meta is ‘working on’ its own version of Apple Vision Pro Travel Mode so you can use your Quest 3 on a plane

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.

The reveal trailer for the Apple headset – which is finally set to launch on February 2, with Vision Pro preorders already having gone live (many Apple headsets are already being sold on eBay for extremely high prices) – showed off several use cases for the gadget. One of the examples was a person slipping the headset on while sitting in a plane seat, presumably so they could enjoy an immersive experience while traveling.

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.

A woman wearing the Apple Vision Pro while on a plane with other passengers next to them.

(Image credit: Apple)

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.

See more

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.

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Google Maps just made it a lot easier to plan holiday trips with better travel tools

With the holiday season just over the horizon, Google Maps is receiving an update to make planning and traveling around these hectic times more manageable.

The patch consists of three new features. First, the app will gain updated “transit directions” that’ll tell you “the best route to your destination based on key factors”. This includes the overall length of the trip, estimated time of arrival, plus the number of transfers you’ll have to take in order to get there. It’ll even be possible to customize the route using filters telling Google Maps to focus on a specific type of transit, like subways, or if you want one with minimal walking. 

Additionally, the app will tell where you can find the entrances and exits to stations “in over 80 cities around the world,” including Boston, London, New York City, Sydney, and Toronto. It'll point out “what side of the street they're on” as well as if there is a “clear walking route”.

Newfound collaboration

Next, the collaborative list tool will allow invited users to vote on an activity via emoji reactions. You can choose between a heart, a smiley face, a flame, or a flying stack of cash if you’re interested in going. For those who aren’t, a thumbs-down icon will be available.

Speaking of which, people can also react to publicly posted photographs on Google Maps with an emoji. The company states that “in some cases” you’ll be given the opportunity to use mashup reactions via Emoji Kitchen. The emoji mashup selections seem to depend on what the app’s AI sees in an image. For example, if it detects a bagel, the mashup will include the food item, and potentially, the yummy face. These custom-made icons will automatically be generated.

Everything you see here will be rolling out globally to Android and iOS devices starting today. The rest of the announcement consists of the tech giant shouting out certain Google Maps tools that you can use to help “navigate the holidays” like finding nearby charging stations for electric vehicles or purchasing train tickets right on the app.

If you’re interested in what else it can do, check out TechRadar’s list of the 10 things you didn’t know Google Maps could do

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Google Bard’s upcoming extensions could make it my new travel buddy

Google Bard has finally found its legs after an incredibly rocky start and a long game of catch-up with other chatbots like ChatGPT and Microsofts’ Bing Chat. Luckily for Google, Bard has picked up the slack and introduced a whole lot of new features since its launch. Now, extensions may soon be coming to Bard and be the final push it needs to meet and maybe surpass ChatGPT.

During Google I/O 2023, the company mentioned developing extension support for Bard, and while the tech giant has delivered on many of the other features – including image-generation capabilities, maps integration, and better logical understanding – we haven’t had any updates about extension support.

But that could be about to change. Dylan Roussel from 9to5google has uncovered an early preview of what the extensions could look like within the Bard web app. While the UI is available, from the preview it doesn’t seem like any of the extensions actually work – yet. 

Screenshot of potentially UI

(Image credit: 9to5Google )

Let's go to the beach!

These extensions include Google Flights, Hotels, and Maps, as well as Youtube and even Zillow. It’s interesting to see the selection of services offered, as all the extensions combined look a lot like travel planning essentials

This could suggest Google is planning to push Bard as a planning assistant, which in all honesty is a really good idea to begin solidifying Bard into our everyday endeavors. Rather than unleash the chatbot on a ‘blank user template’ so to speak, Google’s plan to align Bard with basic travel planning could mean more people will be inclined to get acquainted with the chatbot and its new extensions.

In any case, these extensions will essentially bring Bard up to par with ChatGPT, and give the quirky bot a leg up in the race for AI supremacy.

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