OPINION

VR headsets must become the “ultimate screen”

VR headsets must become the “ultimate screen”

VR and AR need to create new experiences and apps, but they also need to close the gap with 2D content if they are to succeed.

My favorite news from Meta Connect 2022 is only indirectly about virtual reality: that Xbox Cloud Gaming is coming for Meta Quest 2.

You can stream hundreds of high-quality 2D games directly into Meta Quest 2 and experience them on a big screen. A Game Pass subscription and an Xbox controller are all you need.

This news surprised and delighted me because I don’t have a game console or a game monitor at home. I only have a Google Chromecast connected to my TV. When I’m not watching movies or reading, I’m in VR. I haven’t bothered with 2D games in years.

But that doesn’t mean I would rather not try 2D games from time to time. With Xbox Cloud Gaming for Meta Quest 2, I can pursue this activity as part of my usual media consumption, and thanks to virtual reality, in large format.

Integrating the old with the new

I realize that my media consumption is different from that of the masses and that Xbox Cloud Gaming alone is not a reason to buy a VR headset.

But supporting Xbox Cloud Gaming makes sense as part of a broader strategy to make 2D content accessible in VR. After all, regular games have tremendous cultural and economic value that people shouldn’t miss when they put on a headset.

Ein Dashboard zeigt Titel von Xbox Cloud Gaming auf der Quest 2.

A beta version of the Xbox app in VR. | Image: Meta, Microsoft

This is not only true for entertainment media like games, movies and music (where is Spotify VR?!). How convenient it would be to have full access to your smartphone in VR or to your work computer to quickly finish typing a school paper in VR after a VR game or to answer an email without having to take off the VR headset.

At the same time as Xbox Cloud Gaming, Meta and Microsoft announced that they would be releasing Windows 11 and Office apps for Meta Quest 2 and Meta Quest Pro. This would be another important step towards a future where the 2D ecosystem merges with the VR ecosystem and VR headsets become general purpose devices. Netflix VR, Youtube VR and a handful of 2D apps are not enough. There is much more to it.

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Carmack: VR must become a “universal platform”

Bridging old and new paradigms of media consumption and computing: That’s essential for the broader adoption of VR and AR.

A big proponent of making 2D content accessible in VR is former Oculus chief technology officer John Carmack, who now works for Meta in an advisory capacity. As early as 2019, Carmack opined at a Connect talk on the subject:

“There’s a trillion dollars worth of content that was built for other screens. And I just think it’s completely unreasonable to pretend that people are going to recreate all the value in that content in VR-specific applications. It should be the universal platform. You should be able to do everything in VR.”

And Carmack takes his vision even further, saying the VR headset should be “the best screen in the house that, whatever other tablets, phones, screen, TVs that you use, you should be able to have the VR version that is better in some significant way.”

I’m excited about that future.