VR news of the week
As part of a weekly series, Android Central Senior Editors Michael Hicks and Nick Sutrich are rounding up all of the news on hardware, game announcements, leaks, and cool updates related to the Meta Quest 3, Oculus Quest 2, and other VR headsets.
It’s an interesting time covering virtual and mixed reality in 2023. On the one hand, the hardware for immersive experiences and the software behind them have only gotten more advanced over time. On the other hand, we’re seeing more and more how challenging it is for companies to actually make money off of VR.
Thanks to Meta Connect 2023 and post-Quest 3 launch craziness, we ironically fell off of covering the VR news of the week for the past month or so, so we’re diving right back in with some intriguing developments — mostly involving Meta earnings and the Quest 3’s latest hidden tricks, but also new AR glasses and new games we’re most excited about.
From SteamVR 2.0 to the Quest v59 update, here’s all of the most interesting VR and XR news of the week that you missed.
SteamVR 2.0 finally arrives
The headline speaks for itself here. Steam announced its new platform update on Thursday, stating that it’ll let them add new features “much faster and more frequently” than before by unifying the SteamVR experience with “a more consistent experience across devices.” We first heard about an update back in 2019, making it a long four-year wait for improvements.
Some of the new updates include a redesigned UI inspired by Steam Deck, easily-accessible Steam notifications, integrated Steam and Voice Chat, an improved keyboard, and a change to the storefront.
Despite selling 20 billion Quest 2s, Meta’s Reality Labs division has lost tens of billions of dollars in its quest (sorry) to make the metaverse happen, investing in future VR hardware and AR glasses. Now, according to the recent Meta earnings report, that’s not going to change no matter how well the Quest 3 sells.
“We expect [Reality Labs] operating losses to increase meaningfully year-over-year,” Meta CFO Susan Li said during the earnings call on Wednesday. They reported total 2023 RL losses thus far to be $11.47 billion, so you’d expect the total to hit between $14–15 billion. And next year, the company expects losses to be even higher.
Meta itself has a booming business right now thanks to advertising, the popularity of Reels, its new AI developments, and its decision to fire thousands of employees. It can stomach these losses.
Still, it’s fascinating to see how the Quest 3 and future Quest 4 can only exist because other parts of Meta’s business subsidize it. It makes it clear why other companies might struggle to match Meta with a wireless VR headset of their own.
Just look at Pico: Bytedance had to deny reports this week that it may shut down its VR business entirely, according to Reuters. Evidently, the TikTok-owning brand has to decide if it wants to spend that sweet app money on headsets that will struggle to turn a profit, even if they’re the most popular headset in China.
You can (sort of) use your Quest 3 as a 3D camera!
The best hidden feature of the Quest 3 you didn’t know about: it’s a 3D camera!With a 63mm baseline, it can actually take some pretty great 3D photos.These photos were taken with the Quest 3 using the QuestGamesOptimizer!Find it here: https://t.co/VkKf2XrR1X pic.twitter.com/J8g1I74qI1October 27, 2023
Nima Zeighami, who made Within’s AR Wonderscope app, posted on X/Twitter about a Quest 3 feature most people (ourselves included) didn’t know about: its ability to take 3D photographs.
To use this tool, you’d need to install and sideload the Quest Games Optimizer, but it’s an intriguing idea, given that the headset’s main draw is its powerful passthrough resolution. We’ve seen plenty of hardcore VR fans walking around outside wearing their Quest 3s, so using it for photography while out and about seems like a logical next step.
Xtadium brings 52 NBA games to Quest 3 for free
The @nba returns to your @MetaQuestVR headsets in Xtadium.We will be streaming 52 immersive NBA games! That means you can watch 52 NBA games courtside for FREE!Users will also be able to sign into NBA League Pass to experience the new Multi-Game Mode. https://t.co/QVZl6f06FB pic.twitter.com/uqUkmuKWCqOctober 25, 2023
In the Xtadium app on the Quest, you’ll be able to watch NBA games “filmed in immersive 180-degree VR” from a courtside seat, without needing to pay for the privilege.
I remember NBA VR games happening as early as 2017 when NextVR first tried to make VR live sporting events happen (before Apple bought it). Now, at least, we can expect higher-resolution feeds and the benefit of watching it in mixed-reality with full view of your living room — so you’re not trapped without a view of your surroundings for two or three hours.
You can see the full schedule of free NBA VR games at that link. As a Warriors fan who can’t afford Chase Center tickets, I’m looking forward to watching the game on November 3 to see if a courtside view of “Chef” Curry on the Quest 3 is any better than just watching the game on my LG TV.
The Quest v59 update acknowledges the Quest 3’s short battery life
The Meta Quest 3 barely lasts 2 hours per play session. The Quest 2 wasn’t much better, but you could sometimes make it last 3 hours before you needed a battery pack; now, the enhanced graphics make the Quest 3 fairly short-lived.
Meta’s new v59 update addresses that, with a Battery Saver mode that switches the refresh rate to a hard 72Hz, dims the brightness by 50%, and applies fixed foveated rendering. We don’t know how much battery this will save, since the game you’re playing may default to 90Hz or 120Hz; only you can decide if the graphics trade-off is worth it. You can find the option in the Power settings in-headset.
That link and the Meta release notes run through most of the other changes, but here are the highlights: a YouTube Live Chat early-access beta for livestreamers, an Oculus button shortcut to send a bug report, a Quest 3-only “suggested boundary” for every time you put on the headset in a new space, and a change to how your hands look in mixed reality to make objects and menus behind them easier to see.
The v59 update started rolling out this week; whether or not you’ve received it already, now’s probably a good time to buy a Quest 3 strap upgrade with a battery pack, if you haven’t already. My VR bud Nick Sutrich called it the “one Quest 3 accessory you actually need.”
AR glasses had a good week
We heard a couple of months ago that Google had shut down its Iris AR/VR glasses prototype in favor of developing the XR software for other companies’ glasses, while also building several new AR prototypes in competition with one another. It wasn’t clear whether Google’s smart glasses had a reliable future.
Then last week, we saw an exciting bit of code in the Google beta app: “
I recently reviewed the Meta Smart Glasses — which have no AR elements but do offer a voice assistant, photography, and music streaming — and have to admit that I’m still eager for a more modern Google Glass, even if I can’t help but worry about the privacy concerns.
Meanwhile, Xreal (formerly Nreal) announced its new Air 2 and Air 2 Pro AR glasses this week, primarily meant for streaming movies or playing games indoors, with their 1920 x 1080 dual displays, 120Hz refresh rate, and up to 330-inch virtual display. I have a pair shipping to me now, and I’m pretty darn excited to try them out.
Best spooky game releases of the week
One of AC’s contributors wrote up this hands-on of The 7th Guest VR, remake of the 1992 FMV classic and one of the largest Quest 3 titles at about 13GB, thanks to the live-action footage. It has great spooky ambience and challenging puzzles, making for an overall charming experience with some unfortunate bugs that Vertigo Games will hopefully patch out soon. It’s already snuck its way into our list of the best Quest games.
Our hands-on with Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord comes out next week, but this long-anticipated game has single-player and co-op elements, as well as a mixed-reality mode I tried out at Meta Connect where the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man smashes through your living room walls and you have to fight him off. Initial fan reviews seem mixed at the moment, but I’m still curious about trying it out.
Otherwise, you can check out our list of upcoming Quest 3 and 2 games to see what’s in store for the next month, or check our list of the games with Quest 3 enhancements thus far!