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VR News of the Week: SteamVR 2.0, Hidden Tricks of Quest 3, and Steph Curry in XR

As part of a weekly series, Android Central’s senior editors, Michael Hicks and Nick Sutrich, are compiling all the news about hardware, game announcements, leaks, and interesting updates related to Meta Quest 3, Oculus Quest 2, and other VR headsets.

It’s an exciting time to dive into the virtual and mixed reality in 2023. On one hand, the hardware for immersive experiences and the software behind them have only become more advanced over time. On the other hand, we increasingly see how challenging it is for companies to truly profit from VR.

Thanks to Meta Connect 2023 and the post-Quest 3 launch frenzy, ironically we’ve missed covering the VR news of the week for the past month or so, so we’re back with some intriguing developments – primarily involving gains from Meta and the latest hidden tricks of Quest 3, but also new AR glasses and games that excite us.

From SteamVR 2.0 to the Quest v59 update, here are all the most interesting VR and XR news of the week that you might have missed.

SteamVR 2.0 Finally Arrives

The headline speaks for itself. Steam announced its new platform update on Thursday, stating that it will allow for adding new features “much faster and more frequently” than before, unifying the SteamVR experience with “a more consistent experience across all devices.” We first heard about an update in 2019, making it a long four-year wait for improvements.

Some of the new updates include a redesigned user interface inspired by the Steam Deck, easily accessible Steam notifications, integrated Steam and voice chat, an enhanced keyboard, and a storefront shift.

steamvr 2.0

Despite selling 20 billion Quest 2s, Meta’s Reality Labs division lost tens of billions of dollars in its quest (excuse the pun) to make the metaverse succeed, investing in future VR hardware and AR glasses. Now, according to Meta’s recent earnings report, that’s not going to change, no matter how well the Quest 3 sells.

“We expect [Reality Labs] operating losses to increase significantly year over year,” said Susan Li, CFO of Meta, during the results conference on Wednesday. They reported total RL losses in 2023 so far at $11.47 billion, so you would expect the total to reach between $14-15 billion. And next year, the company expects the losses to be even greater.

Meta itself has a growing business thanks to advertising, the popularity of Reels, its new AI developments, and its decision to lay off thousands of employees. It can afford these losses.

Still, it’s fascinating to see how the Quest 3 and the future Quest 4 can only exist because other parts of Meta’s business subsidize them. This makes it clear why other companies might struggle to match Meta with their own wireless VR headsets.

Just look at Pico: Bytedance had to deny reports this week that it might completely shut down its VR business, according to Reuters. Evidently, the TikTok parent brand has to decide whether it wants to spend that hefty app money on headsets that may struggle to turn a profit, even if they are the most popular headsets in China.

You Can (More or Less) Use Your Quest 3 as a 3D Camera!

Nima Zeighami, who created the AR app Wonderscope by Within, posted on X/Twitter about a feature of the Quest 3 that most people (including us) didn’t know about: its ability to take 3D photos. To use this tool, you need to install and run the Quest Games Optimizer, but it’s an intriguing concept, considering the headset’s powerful tracking solution.

We’ve seen many hardcore VR fans walking around outside using their Quest 3s, so using them to take photos while out and about seems like the next logical step.

Xtadium Brings 52 NBA Games to Quest 3 for Free

In the Xtadium app on the Quest, you’ll be able to watch NBA games “shot in immersive 180-degree VR” from a seat on the court, without having to pay for the privilege. I remember NBA VR games happening as early as 2017, when NextVR first tried to make live sports events in VR happen (before Apple bought them). Now, at least, we can expect high-resolution feeds and the convenience of watching them in mixed reality with a full view of your living room—so you won’t be holed up without seeing what’s around you for two or three hours.

You can see the full schedule of free NBA VR games at this link. As a Warriors fan who can’t afford Chase Center tickets, I’m looking forward to watching the game on November 3rd to see if a view of “Chef” Curry on the court on the Quest 3 is better than just watching the game on my LG TV.

Quest 3 NBA

Quest v59 Update Acknowledges Quest 3’s Short Battery Life

The Meta Quest 3 barely lasts 2 hours per gaming session. The Quest 2 wasn’t much better, but sometimes you could stretch it to 3 hours before needing a charge; now, the enhanced graphics make the Quest 3’s battery life quite short. The new v59 update from Meta addresses this, with a battery-saving mode that adjusts the refresh rate to 72 Hz, reduces brightness by 50%, and applies fixed and foveated rendering. We don’t know how much battery this will save, as the game you’re playing may have a default of 90 Hz or 120 Hz; only you can decide if the graphical trade-off is worth it. You can find the option in the headset’s power settings.

Meta Quest 3

This link and the Meta release notes cover most of the other changes, but here are the highlights: a beta version of early access YouTube Live Chat for live streamers, an Oculus button shortcut for bug reporting, a “Quest 3 only suggested boundary” every time you set up the headset in a new space, and a change in the appearance of your hands in mixed reality to make objects and menus behind them easier to see.

The v59 update started rolling out this week; whether you’ve received it or not, now is probably a good time to get a Quest 3 wrist strap upgrade with a battery, if you haven’t already. My VR buddy, Nick Sutrich, called it “a must-have for the Quest 3.”

AR Glasses Had a Good Week

We heard a few months ago that Google had shelved its Iris AR/VR glasses prototype in favor of XR software development for another company’s glasses, while building several new competing AR prototypes. It wasn’t clear if Google’s smart glasses had a reliable future.

Then, last week, we saw an interesting code in the Google beta app: “iris_finish_setup_description_no_hotword”>Simply tap and hold the right temple to talk to your Assistant.”. Identified by 9to5Google, this code proves that Google remains committed to the Iris smart glasses in some way and that the current plan is to make the Google Assistant accessible with a simple button press. I recently reviewed the Meta Smart Glasses – which don’t have AR elements but offer voice assistant, picture, and music streaming – and I have to admit I’m still looking forward to a more modern Google Glass, even though I can’t help but worry about privacy issues.

AR Glasses

Meanwhile, Xreal (formerly Nreal) announced their new AR glasses, Air 2 and Air 2 Pro, this week, primarily aimed at streaming movies or games in indoor environments, with dual 1920 x 1080 displays, a 120 Hz refresh rate, and virtual screens of up to 330 inches. I have a pair sent to me now and I’m very excited to try them out.

The Best Scary Game Releases of the Week

One of AC’s contributors wrote this hands-on of The 7th Guest VR, a remake of the 1992 classic FMV and one of the biggest titles for Quest 3 with over 13 GB of content, thanks to the live-action imagery. It has a compelling horror atmosphere and challenging puzzles, providing an overall delightful experience with some unfortunate bugs that Vertigo Games will fix soon. It has already made it onto our list of the best Quest games.

Our experience with Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord will be released next week, but this highly anticipated game has single-player and cooperative elements, as well as a mixed reality mode that I tried at Meta Connect, where the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man breaks through the walls of your room and you have to fight him. Initial fan reviews seem mixed at the moment, but I’m still curious to test it out.

Ghostbusters Rise of the Ghost Lord

Otherwise, you can check out our list of upcoming Quest 3 and 2 games to see what’s in store for next month, or check out our list of games with Quest 3 enhancements so far!

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