Oculus Quest 2 will either save budget VR… or doom it

This is almost the big leap forward VR gaming needed It has abysmal international availability It is the most fun and hopeful I have felt about the future of gaming It is the most terrified I have been about big tech in a while It is a golden opportunity for indie and small developers Oh god please make it stop It is not a secret I really think Virtual Reality has the potential of being the next big leap in gaming and that I am ever hopeful for it becoming cheaper and more available In my mind after going through the process of going from slight VR sceptic to a soft VR enthusiast that keeps trying to shove my headset into the heads of friends and family, I am of the opinion that there are 3 main things limiting VR going mainstream -Cost of the associated headset and console or PC -Lack of recognizable big-name games -And international availability Oculus surprised nobody by releasing a follow up to Oculus Quest, a stand-alone headset that experienced a popularity spike that made it impossible to buy in most places after a certain point earlier this year and there is a lot, a lot to talk about for this fascinating little successor Before that, this video is brought to you by Skillshare Start learning for free with the link down bellow As many of you are aware I use to own one VR headset: an used windows mixed reality HP headset that I got for really, really cheap when I was in the US for Vidcon and while it is not the highest quality product it has been a terrific purchase for the amount of value I have gotten out of it But after many, many hours spent on VR and after realizing my headset is literally falling apart in places I started thinking I was ready for an upgrade Last year I did an exploration on an industry trend that I found paradoxical On that first point, the issue of high cost most players in the VR headset area seems to be getting worse rather than better Mixed Reality Headset, like the one I got for so little, were only cheap because they had been market failures and so were only available used meaning that the low price was completely dependant on the whims of the used market and they are almost completely absent from non-US markets Only once have I seen one of these in sale for a reasonable price in Europe New Mixed Reality headsets continue the trend of most players: aiming for either industry use or high-end enthusiasts and in that video, I commented on how the only one really concerned, or rather capable, of bringing down the cost of VR was Oculus/Facebook as they could afford to bankroll the very expensive development and sale products at small margins with hopes of both future dominance over the platform and adding one more element to their hungry data collection algorithms I recommend you watch the whole video if that sounds interesting I am pretty proud of it and it has an interview with Blake J. Harris the author of Consoles Wars and the History of the Future In any case, the observations derived from that video seemed to have gotten more true with time Facebook decided to move forward from the dual release of a stand-alone headset and a dedicated PC headset and after the release of oculus link decided to focus on one hybrid device And they cut the price so much that it can plainly compete with many of the used windows mixed reality headsets still left in the used market I can not emphasize enough how crazy that is While I have seen some valid discussion regarding what corners had to be cut in order to get there in comparison with the quest 1 for someone like me who has only tested the original quest in conferences or short trials but is intimately familiar with the old HP windows mixed reality the jump is so large it is difficult to articulate The tracking is better, the tracking range is wider, the visual quality is better, the usability is more polished, the controller battery life is better, the fov feels higher While using it I feel like I just jumped two generations ahead in technology, it is remarkable The fact that this is a stand-alone headset meaning that it can run games locally with no separate PC and not just a PC headset is absolutely insane and again coming out from a Windows Mixed reality the addition of not having to deal with headphones thanks to integrated speaker things that are not as good as dedicated headphones but much better than I expected and I am 100% used to them by now and, get this, there is some degree of finger tracking in this controller This got me completely by surprise because I had not read anything about it before buying but the quest is able to tell when you are close to the stick of certain buttons which translates to finger positioning which works in more games than I expected including Half-Life Alyx Cool How the heck only 300 dollars? There are very few bad things I have to say about the Quest 2 in this territory Maybe the fact that for the device has an annoying extra 50 euros in Europe compared to the US something that other gaming products like Consoles find ways to avoid I am just not well informed on what distribution chain reasons might cause this but it does

really annoys me Now I still do think that VR can and should go cheaper we are definitely reaching a breaking point in terms of a minimum price for adoption A lot of existing VR enthusiasts will angrily point at stuff like consoles or phones and correctly declare that people around the world regularly spend more on simpler devices as an argument to not lowering the price any further Which takes me to what I think is the important next point The reasons someone might be willing to put down an astronomical amount of money for a phone but still consider VR so expensive comes down to risk When buying a new phone you already know what you are going to use it for and that you will carry it with you every day, but for most people, a VR headset is a gamble Will it make me dizzy? Will I find games worth playing or will it be a dud purchase collecting dust? Weirdly enough for consoles, this problem is solved by franchise recognition: you buy a switch because you know you will be playing Zelda and mario, you buy an Xbox because you know it works with a subscription service that has tons of games that you have heard before, you buy a Playstation because of Spiderman and spider cat New games that you have never heard before are an added benefit but not the reason for the big upfront purchase I say all this because, since I never owned a stand-alone headset before, my first task was to spend some money on some games and when surfing through the list of Oculus best selling games I ran into an issue that I absolutely did not expect As much as I like yelling to people about how we should support Indie games I was automatically unconsciously looking for something familiar in this list and since I did not immediately see anything that I have heard before (except for Beat Saber and superhot which of course I bought for like the first 3rd time because they are my personal benchmarks for how well a headset works) I was left with a feeling of not seeing anything that immediately made me felt more secure about the 350 euros now missing from my bank account I was wrong of course I had to do some research and do some guesses and found plenty of really good things to play here but I worry that for the mainstream consumer a big hook is missing I do not even mean a masterpiece of a game, I honestly just mean something “good enough” with brand recognition to get people to try something in the first place The closest there is right now is Vader Inmortal, a game made by a studio within Lucasfilm with a lot of experience with VR experiments Initially, I was worried this would suffer from a lot of the pitfalls of early VR experiences, namely that they feel more like tech demos than actual games and it kinda does but it still has a surprising amount of polish in terms of presentation and a real interest plot that got me to buy past the first chapter If you are into Star Wars side story it is recommended but I am not sure I would call it a system seller but the fact that it was frequently packed in with the previous quest models just highlights this lack of recognizable gamer brand issue Just like people buy a switch because omg Zelda and then they start exploring indie games and some those really find a big audience there the Oculus Quest could really do the same with just the right hook As much as I hate to admit it… brand recognition matters However, once I was out of my fear of the unknown and after watching a bunch of videos by some of my YouTube buddies I started purchasing and playing stuff and holy shit Hoooooly shit When you start up one of the games that Oculus offers you for free is Echo VR, which is a spinoff multiplayer mode of a narrative game called Lone Echo and honestly, I see why It is an immediate easy entry point into what VR can be Multiplayer, interesting locomotion that only works in VR, fun… it convinced me to buy the stand-alone narrative game. It is really good (Laughs in Spanish) I was really, really hoping they would pack it in with Beat Saber, and in fact, I thought this was going to be the strategy when Facebook acquired the game as it single-handily has convinced more people to get into VR than any other game I have tested and it just would have been the perfect wii sports for this device Still, the variety of games that have ended up in the oculus store such as Tetris effect which is my new favourite pre-sleep zen game or Pistol Whip which got me into violence fulled trance, unlike anything I have experienced, is fantastic The potential is there Indie studios have taken the slack of pushing VR forward and the software has matured in such interesting ways and they just need to convince more people to get into the platform which is likely why Facebook is also so eager to acquire studios to just somehow grow the market enough to get those bigger names to participate Perhaps then it is good that this is only half of the potential experience Oculus has thrown away the idea of having separate headsets for PC after the development of Oculus Link, a solution that allows to connection the headset via USB to a PC and use it on PC games via Steam VR or any such platform

The technology behind this is pretty interesting While conventional PC headsets require a USB port for tracking and a display port or HDMI for video output The quest streams everything through a single USB cable At first, I thought the video signal was just going through usb c display port since some USB type C ports can carry a video signal but this still works on pure USB ports, even through usual big USB type A What is actually happening is the video feed is being compressed as data, streamed through USB and decompressed in real-time in the headset It is remarkable that this is able to work as well as it does but it does mean that just getting the setup to work can be complicated Why? Because everything you know about USB cables is wrong I am being hyperbolic At least it is likely that you have as I did, some big misconceptions about how cables work for USB type C USB type C was supposed to be the one port to rule them all but in practice, it has turned into a bit of a mess that takes a bit of work to untangle Any time you see a USB type C port in a computer it could be just a USB 3.0 port like any other, just in a different shape, it could also be a charging port that would support a variety of power levels, it could also be a display port usb type C which supports video output or input, or it could a thunderbolt 3 connector which has some level of PCIe access and therefore can connect to peripherals like GPUs Which one is the one on your computer? Good luck finding out Sometimes there are icons indicating it but most of the time you will be digging through specs for your laptop or motherboard to find out Thankfully the data streaming solution of the Quest means that it just needs USB 3.0 which is USUALLY supported by all USB type C ports and by just regular big blue USB ports Now the ugly part is that this madness extends to USB type C cables There are cables that support different levels of charging, there are cables that support video input and output, there are cables that support thunderbolt 3 and there are cables that support USB 3.0 speeds or any combination of the above How do you know what your cable support? well you better pray it says so in the box because the only other way to find out is to try it and see if it works For the Oculus quest what you need as a cable that at least one of the sides is USB type C and that explicitly supports USB 3.0 speeds Thankfully those are pretty cheap most of the time but damn did I wish I knew not every USB cable was a 3.0 cable before I tested so many of my cables before I gave up and bought one I swear this was easier to understand when we had different ports for everything. Cost of future I guess Now being able to connect to a PC when you figure out all your cables and ports, the result is absolutely impressive I know a video stream compressed and transmitted over USB is bound to have compression artifacting but I just absolutely can not notice it and it is against a net gain from the experience I was having with the Windows Mixed Reality It is worth noting that if you just ignore my entire rant about USB cable types and you plug a very cheap USB type C cable or even the one that comes with the Oculus you can still make the headset work in USB 2.0 mode Surprisingly in this mode, I did not immediately notice a dramatic drop in image quality but I would often experience weird glitches like constantly losing tracking for one of my controllers so it might be better suited for games that do not require hand tracking The importance of this functionality can not be understated PC based VR does have some of those more recognizable names that VR needs It has been years since the early clumsy attempts by triple AAA studios, mostly Bethesda, to design for VR and slowly established studios have gotten the grasp of virtual reality design Half-Life Alyx, which should be the golden standard for big shooty shooty immersive narrative games garnered so much interested that it was partially responsible for the massive VR headset shortage of early 2020 It is also both impressively well optimized and so heavy that it is a great example of the sort of game that would struggle running on a stand-alone headset Now if there is one thing I liked about my old Windows Mixed Reality is that it seems to work on anything as long as it has a USB 3.0 port and an HDMI port and as long as the computer had just enough power to sustain its performance During my limited testing time with the old Oculus Rift S (which a PC only headset) this was one of my chief complaints, the darn headset was super picky on which display ports where needed and would not work on a bunch of laptops because the port was not wired to the dedicated GPU or some other silly excuse I was very happy to see that Oculus Link pretty much fixed this As far as I have tested if a computer has enough power and a USB 3.0 port the Quest 2 works as a PC headset really well

In fact, Oculus has a lot of guidelines on what GPUs work on oculus link for an optimal experience and a lot of info on the way it works would suggest there is an overhead for video encoding that would require a bit more power than other types of headsets but I did get much better results under those minimum requirements than I expected Not long ago I made a review of this very small computer with a dedicated GTX 1050 Ti which is very much outside Oculus support list and I could not test VR on because it can only output video through one port at a time which is… weird and somehow I missed during my original review But hey, you connect the Quest 2 through a USB 3.0 port and play half-life Alyx on it To make this work I am using some of my custom settings from my Half Life Alyx video to increase performance but it worked much better than I expected so yeah pretty good PC headset too And connected to a mini PC this makes for a killer combo So that leaves the third point on which the Oculus Quest 2 is really doing not fantastically It is staggering to me just how spotty the availability of quest 2 is around the world For anyone outside the developed world, there is still no chance to get one of this on a low price but even in like random countries in the European Union are just not in the release list I continue being frustrated about how much Virtual Reality is a first-world luxury but if anything that stills tells me even Oculus knowns this is still not the product to take over the world and light the industry on fire but just another significantly large step towards that objective, mostly focused on that first part of the elements needed to succeed While takes me perfectly to what you absolutely know is coming The ugly part The reason is the Oculus is the only one willing and capable of lowering the cost is Facebook and this is far from a secret On his great book, The History of the Future Blake J. Harris puts it very plainly how Mark Zuckenberg believes VR to be a strong candidate for the next big platform that comes after the jump from PCs to smartphones Bankrolling Oculus means in the long term a possibility of being the trendsetter for the next big shift in computing and in the short term one more way to add data points to its hungry profiling data collection algorithms which explains the enthusiast panic around parts of this product launch If you have been following this for a while you might have noticed that Oculus and Facebook are aware of the sentiment that has been attached to this whole thing ever since the original oculus purchase and how they only increase their integration slowly, just a bit more every generation Now, it would be hypocritical to condemn what is happening here when the exchange on privacy for affordability and accessibility has been normalized to an increasing degree to the point that one of the phones in my pocket is running an operating system whose services are free because they collect colossal quantities of data on me for advertising algorithms and that the same company provides an ad maintained platform where I put most of my videos and get in part paid by targeted advertising *Ahem ahem* The extra issues come in two parts One is Philosophical because while I am not going to pretend Google is a good nice clean company Facebook has been on a roll lately with the net negative effect they have been having on the world so like I can’t blame people for feeling distraught at heavier integration As long as these companies rely heavily on targeted advertising powered by data collection algorithms they have zero incentive to be conscious about the use of personal data and so a lot of their promise just sounds empty As you can tell I have heavily mixed feelings about this whole thing If any of you watching are from countries where Facebook had a more direct influence on the political discussion on net neutrality and corporate regulation of the internet feel free to send me your thoughts as I would really welcome first-hand experience The other is the practical approach It is absolutely bizarre to me that they would go ahead with chaining your game purchases to something as notoriously finicky as a Facebook account For Gamers, especially PC gamers, whatever account is linked to our purchased game libraries is literally one of our most precious assets This is one of the things Google Stadia still has such a hard time understanding and the main detriment from people just wanting to buy expensive games on a platform they have no assurance will last This is similar but worse While not unheard of the idea of Steam or GOG or any of the other traditional digital game storefronts just Thanos snapping all your games into oblivion is not really a thing most people worry about But a Facebook account? The thing that requires your real name, occasionally asks for your ID and is so often used by malicious actors for botting? I have already spent literally hundreds of euros in games and I am already terrified

by some of the stories circling around Look, I am sure in reality the numbers of cases of this happening is low and there is a mechanism to deal with it but VR right now is not about what it is, but about what it can be and convincing people to jump in into this platform is way harder when you have to deal with the existing global scepticism and distrust around one account type This seriously risks poisoning the well for affordable VR So I am left with mixed feelings The technology is nothing short of impressive, the level of polish is outstanding, the games are fascinating both on stand-alone and on PC and the price is hard to believe There is a lack of recognizable names in the standalone library, global availability is not very good and the next step in inevitable integration seriously risks ruining part of the progress VR has made Will the good parts be enough for it to be enough of a success to justify the next step for cheap Virtual Reality? I don’t know, but I can’t help but hope so I originally bought the Quest 2 purely as a gaming experience but have since actually beginning to earnestly use it as a media consumption machine as I have realized that it is an actually a very comfortable and cool experience for watching anime or videos before going to sleep Immensely superior just using my phone which is the way I have been doing so far If this becomes a thing it will annoy me that it would not be the first technology to truly enrich the world born of… questionable ethical backgrounds but I truly, truly believe VR has some beautiful potential once it goes beyond the realm of rich enthusiasts in developed countries but one can’t help but wonder what we will sacrifice along the way But hey, I would love to be wrong about this and maybe the cheapening of technology will lead to other companies finding a way to offer the technology for less and VR will become the next big technological platform and I am going to have to learn how to adapt whatever creative projects I carry on to it Which is I did this course on how to learn new skills quickly from this course by my buddy Mike Boyd who runs a marvellous channel about learning things quickly and he thankfully is sharing a lot of his secrets over at Skillshare Just the same as Evan from Polymatter did this fantastic course on thumbnail design for YouTube which I found immensely useful and is definitely recommended for anyone that has to deal with doing a cover or presentation for any video or product All of these are some of the wonderful things you can learn from Skillshare, this video’s sponsor Skillshare is an online learning community with thousands of inspiring classes for creative and curious people Explore new skills, deepen existing passions, and get lost in creativity We all going to need a bunch of new skills now that there seems to be a tectonic shift in how the labour market is going to work It’s curated specifically for learning, meaning there are no ads, and they’re always launching new premium classes, so you can stay focused and follow wherever your creativity takes you And it’s less than $10 a month with an annual subscription Also, courses and individual classes are not too long so you can accommodate the learning to any schedule, something I personally I am very thankful for Now even though Skillshare is pretty cheap and believe it or not I pay for my personal subscription myself you can get started for much much less In fact, the first 1000 people to use the link in my description will get a free trial of Skillshare Premium Membership so you can get started… for free Also, using that link is how they know you came from here so you are supporting this channel in more ways than you can imagine Thank you to them for sponsoring and you for watching