A firmware finding and an experimental setting apparently made available to a redditor suggest Meta is working on cloud VR streaming.
Last month firmware sleuth Samulia found a string ‘AVALANCE_CLOUD_GAMING_INFRA_ENABLED’ in version 24 of the Quest firmware, according to YouTuber Brad Lynch (SadlyItsBradley). Version 24 would have shipped around 18 months ago, suggesting Avalanche has been in development for quite some time.
Two days ago redditor /u/technicalthrowaway posted a screenshot appearing to show an ‘Enable Avalanche (Alpha)’ option appearing in the Experimental features tab of their Quest 2’s settings, writing the following:
I pressed it, it said “finding server” for 20 seconds or so, and then loaded oculus home. For about 15 seconds, it was really decent framerate, but with a little bit of lag, then a spinning ring came up and stayed like that.
Anyone else got this working?
Meta has been known to roll out features to a small portion of users separately from the main firmware versioning, but we haven’t heard of anyone else seeing this Avalanche option.
Brad Lynch wrote on Twitter that the redditor directly contacted him about their experience, saying “they were able to get into a totally remote game of Asgards Wrath via a UK Wifi5 session”. Asgard’s Wrath is a 25+ hour action-adventure RPG released for the PC-based Oculus Rift platform in late 2019. We gave it 5 stars and described at the time as VR’s best and most ambitious game yet. Between 2016 and 2021 Facebook invested hundreds of millions of dollars to ship a number of such PC exclusive titles – cloud streaming could bring them to the majority of Quest owners who don’t own a gaming PC.
But the experience of cloud streaming heavily depends on the quality of the user’s internet connection. There is a potential for high latency, and for judder caused by packet loss. In late 2020 Oculus ‘Consulting CTO’ John Carmack had this to say, comparing it to local network streaming: “obviously it’s even worse, obviously more people are going to find that unacceptable and it will be a terrible experience for more people, but still I am quite confident that for some people in some situations it’s still going to be quite valuable”.
In 2020 Facebook Gaming VP Jason Rubin described cloud VR gaming as more than five years out, and Carmack said the company has “interminable arguments” about the minimum quality bar required to ship VR streaming. But streaming VR games remotely is already possible on Quest with third party software. Air Link alternative Virtual Desktop supports streaming from a PC outside on your local network, while Shadow and PlutoSphere even let you rent a VR capable PC in the cloud. But a Meta store and App Lab policy relegate these services to third party store SideQuest.
Could seeing these services launch have accelerated Meta’s plans, or was Rubin’s comment simply too pessimistic? We’ve reached out to Meta for comment on this apparent Avalanche leak and will update the article if we get a response.