Air Link and 120hz Mode Coming for Oculus Quest 2

While the Oculus Quest 2 hardware shipped in mid-October it was very clearly a work in progress on the software side.  This is fairly standard for any console, as anyone who’s bought anything more recent than the PS2 can tell, but usually this involves tweaks to usability of the menus and enabling convenience features.  For the Rift 2, these updates have given it new abilities like bumping the display refresh from 80hz to 90hz or adding the ability to sideload games officially, and Oculus is by no means done yet.  The latest updates were just announced this evening and there are some fantastic features coming with the v28 update.

The big one is the Air Link mode, which will be an experimental method of wirelessly streaming games from PC to Quest 2 rather than needing the link cable.  From a technical perspective the link cable is, of course, the easier and more reliable way to stream from PC to headset, but the dream is to have the Quest 2 completely wireless and this update will be the first step (of many) to make this happen.  You’ll want a secure 5G network running off an AC or AX router within about 20 feet of the play area that’s connected by ethernet cable to PC, and every part of that sentence is important.  The need for a secure network is obvious, and if you don’t have one seriously stop reading this now and fix that.  The 5G network is needed for speed, and also ties in directly to the maximum distance you’ll need the router to be from the play area.  5G is faster than 4G by a ridiculous amount but that comes at the expense of range.  AC and AX are the wifi standards of the last couple years, so if you’ve got an ISP-provided modem/router combo you’ll want to double-check it’s not a functional relic of 2015 or so, and finally the ethernet cable connection to the PC running the VR game makes sense because every millisecond of latency that can be shaved off is absolutely necessary.  One of the biggest issues for early VR to overcome was killing the latency between player action and screen reaction, and sending the signal from PC through router to Quest and back again is already enough steps in the process.

The second big piece of gaming news for the Quest 2 is the upgrade to 120hz mode.  Anyone who’s played Polybius on the PSVR (or has a 144hz monitor, I suppose) can attest to how silky-smooth this makes a game feel, like someone greased each and every individual photon coursing through your face.  This is a native refresh rate, and while nothing supports it initially the option is there for developers who can squeeze the power from the headset.  It’s a feature to look forward to rather than use immediately, with the system software not taking advantage of it yet, and even PC games won’t be able to use stream to the headset at that framerate until a future update enables it for the Oculus Link.

The last major part of the update is less gaming related and instead productivity focused, in the form of updates to the Infinite Office.  The ability to use a bluetooth mouse or trackpad was put in place back in January but now the Quest 2 also supports an in-headset version of a real world desk.  It’s already got a feature that models a couch, letting you define the sitting area so it’s identical in VR to how it is outside of it, and this is another version of the same thing.  The virtual desktop is saved much like the play-area boundary, so it should be relatively easy to switch to work-mode.  Also, Oculus is Facebook so maybe doing actual professional work in an environment controlled by a data-collection company isn’t that great an idea.  The other new aspect of Infinite Office is in-VR modeling of a bluetooth keyboard, although the only model mentioned so far is the Logitech K830.

All these updates are going in the Quest 2’s Experimental branch, but it’s definite progress towards the headset’s evolution into being even more of a major VR powerhouse.  There are a ton of unanswered questions, such as how quickly 120hz will chew through the battery’s charge or how Air Link integrates with non-Oculus games, but those answers are coming as the v28 update rolls out this week.