Steam VR With Meta Quest 2 via Air Link

So I finally got around to testing out playing Steam VR games using the Meta Quest 2 via Air Link. Let’s unpack that a bit.

The Meta Quest 2, of course, is Meta’s stand-alone consumer VR visor that runs on a mobile chipset and has its own app store. This is what I use to do my VR workouts and it’s a great product for that and in generally a really nice VR system.

Oculus, back before Meta bought it, made a tethered PCVR headset called the Rift S. To use it you’d install an Oculus app on your Windows machine. This app had its own store. A few years back Meta stopped making the Rift S, but they started selling a $70 “Link Cable” that let you use the Meta Quest 2 as a tethered PCVR headset so you could still play (and purchase!) Rift games. (Rift games won’t run natively on the Quest 2, and vice versa, though some games are ‘cross-buy’ and you get both versions for one cost.)

Then 3rd party modders, and eventually Meta themselves, introduced Air Link which let you ditch the cable and use the Quest 2 as a PCVR headset via WiFi. Lots of caveats about the quality of your WiFi network and all that. But it works, at least for me, and not only does it eliminate having a cable to get tangled up in, it means you don’t need to be near your PC to play, though you probably want to be pretty near a WiFi access point. (I play VR in the living room and it just so happens the Google Fiber WiFi router is about 6 feet from where I play.) I set this up a week or so ago without much effort. The only very slight annoyance is I have to manually switch my audio output (on the PC) to “Oculus Virtual Device” before I start playing, or I get no sound.

SteamVR, of course, is Steam…in VR. Steam sells VR titles including what some would argue is the best VR title available, Half-Life Alyx. (I have no opinion on that…yet.)

So with all that out of the way, here’s what the experience is like for me.

I put on the Quest 2 and I get the Quest 2 home dashboard and access to my Quest 2 games. Then I open Settings and tap a button to connect to my PC via Air Link. When I do that the Quest 2 dashboard goes poof and I switch to the Oculus PC/Rift dashboard and I can play my Rift games. So far this has been a great experience. Once I hit some lag but so far, only once.

Going further down the rabbit hole, I can also access my PC desktop via the Rift Dashboard. Once I do that I can load Steam VR just as if I was sitting at my desk. When I do that, the Oculus Rift dashboard goes poof and the Steam VR dashboard appears. For some reason when it first appears it flickers for about 5-10 seconds but so far it has always stabilized. And from there I can run Steam VR games, and at some point I apparently bought Half-Life Alyx, and that’s what I used to test tonight.

I didn’t get very far, but boy it was pretty breathtaking. You start out on a balcony overlooking a city where those big strider things are ambling around, and various drones are hovering overhead while down below in the streets people mill about. All I did, since dum-dum me decided to start this experiment after 11 PM on a work night, is kind of wander around and throw cans at pigeons and stuff, so no comments on the gameplay but it was sure pretty and ran smooth as can be.

So yeah, pretty happy about how well this all works and now I can finally see what all the fuss is about in Half Life Alyx.