What just happened? Oculus has been working hard to bring some killer features to its Quest VR headset. Monday, it announced that hand tracking would be added to the device this week, ahead of an expected 2020 release. Today the company began its Oculus Link open beta, which allows users to connect the Quest to their PC.
Now, some may be asking, “What is the point of tethering the Quest to a PC when the device was designed from the ground up to be a standalone, wireless VR experience?” There are a few justifiable answers to this question.
The first and most obvious reason to link the Quest to a PC is to play more complex games. One of the limitations of having a standalone headset is that it just cannot pack the horsepower of a PC into the device. With Link, players can now play Oculus Rift games using their Quest, like the highly-anticipated Half-Life: Alyx coming out in March 2020.
Another reason is that the Quest is priced similarly to the Oculus Rift S, both are $399. The Quest does have a bit lower refresh rate, but its display is better than the Rift S. Add in that users have the option to untether and use it by itself, and the value becomes more apparent.
The Quest can also take advantage of gesture controls, which are facilitated by its built-in cameras, no external sensors are needed. Of course, it will take developers time to implement Quest's hand tracking, but rest assured, it’s coming.
Speaking of controls: there will be no need to sync the Quest’s controllers to the PC. The headset will still receive input from the two Touch devices and transmit that to the PC via the Link cable. In fact, setup is pretty much plug-and-play.
The main drawback, if you could call it that, is users will have to have a pretty hefty PC. Oculus recommends an Intel i5-4590 or AMD Ryzen 5 1500X or better CPU and 8GB or more of RAM, just like the Rift S. However, there is no GPU support for AMD graphics card, and the PC will need one of Nvidia’s newer offerings to drive things smoothly.
That said, Oculus Link is currently in beta and plans on expanding GPU support as much as possible before the end of testing.
“We’re working directly with AMD to support as many of their cards as possible by the time the beta period ends,” the company said.
To use Link, players will need a long (at least 10-foot) USB-C to USB-C cable. Oculus plans on releasing a 5-meter (16.4 feet) optical fiber cable for “maximum throughput” in select regions before year’s end. It should be more widely available sometime in 2020.