Thoughts on the Oculus Quest

I’ve been a long time fan of VR. I was an original backer of the Oculus Rift Kickstart, I’ve really enjoyed my Rift CV1, and I finally got my hands on an Oculus Quest a few days ago. Here are some stream of consciousness thoughts after about a day and a half of using it…

It’s incredibly impressive what Oculus has been able to pull off with such a compact, all in one package.

I did have a good bit of controller tracking issues when the controllers were by my sides and behind my head. It corrected their tracking quickly once they come back into view, but if you’re playing a game with fast action, you may see the controllers jump a bit as they come back into view and it’s jarring. The hand tracking was nearly as good as my Oculus Rift CV1 otherwise. Head tracking was as good or better.

Setting up Guardian is 100x easier on the Quest. You just look at the camera passthrough image, point your controller around the room, and you’re done. Super simple and it works well.

Guardian has some type of issue where fast sideways movements of the touch controllers can cause Guardian to activate even when you’re not near the boundary. This happened repeatedly in Beat Saber. Even though my hand never got closer than 1 foot away from the boundary, fast sideways swipes would always activate the boundary grid display for just a second or two. It doesn’t interrupt the game, but it’s very distracting.

Passthrough is very handy, but there should be a quick way to toggle it on and off if you just need to see the real world for a second. As is, you have to leave the Guardian boundary to see it. Walk too far and the passthrough image will fade to black. I’m assuming this happens because the passthrough view is distorted and delayed which can make you sick pretty quickly if you walk too much with the view active.

6.5′ x 6.5′ is the recommended play space. It works fine, but you really should have a bit more than that for most of the games just to leave some buffer.

The sound was “fine”. If you crank up up to 80% or higher, you can hear it pretty well…well enough to play any game I tried. Everyone around you will hear the sound at that volume though, so you definitely want headphones if you’re trying not to disturb people around you or if you want a good amount of bass.

The fixed foveated rendering is much more annoying than I expected, but it each app gets to control it so it’s not an issue in every game. For example, in Bogo, I would constantly see my pixelated hands toward the bottom of the screen. It was incredibly distracting, but if you always look at the center of your view and turn your head instead of moving your eyes, you won’t notice this. If there is a lot of fast action, you don’t notice this either.

The graphics are a very noticeable downgrade. The Oculus Home app was the only app I tried that felt pretty much at parity with PC, but no one was expecting apps to look PC-like, so no surprise there. I did find more realistic looking textures to look much worse than cartoony textures – e.g. Robo Recall looks relatively bad when you look at the cars near you in the streets, but you’re usually busy looking at the robots so you don’t have time to get too distracted. Beat Saber looks great though even though it isn’t parity with the PC version.

I don’t know for sure, but I think some of the games were dropping a few frames on my here and there. I don’t get motion sickness very easily in VR, but I started feeling slightly sick after trying several of the demos. It felt like there were tiny stutters every once in a while so I suspect that was more the cause and not the lower refresh rate (72Hz on Quest vs 90Hz on Rift CV1).

YouTube VR looks amazing. I was surprised how nice some of the 1080p/4K non-VR videos looked projected on the giant YouTube screen. The 180 & 360 videos on there worked great as well, but they just don’t look that crisp (not a problem with the app, it’s just a fact of life for these types of videos right now).

Skybox VR worked great as well. I tried streaming some Plex movies and it was fantastic.

RiftCat + SteamVR does indeed let you “play” Steam VR games on your Quest, but you probably shouldn’t yet. The latency is high and it’ll easily make you sick. That said, I was able to get Elite: Dangerous working with it so I could see my ship in the hangar in VR and that was great. I couldn’t get my HOTAS working with the USB-C OTG cable though nor could I get audio working. In a few months, I could see this being almost playable as long as you don’t mind some compression artifacts to keep the latency lower.

Steam Link works really well in the “TV” app (you have to sideload it). I tried streaming several games from my home PC and everything was playable and the text was readable.

The headset itself is really heavy to me. I know it’s not that much heavier than my CV1 on paper, but in practice, it felt very heavy on the front of my face. I had a really hard time getting a secure fit. Either the fit was relatively comfortable, but let the headset move out of the sweet spot (which seems awfully narrow to me) when playing something like Beat Saber OR the headset was very secure, but the headset was pressed into my sinus area so hard that it was incredibly uncomfortable.

Quick Tips for Oculus Quest

I spent the last couple of days messing around with my Oculus Quest and thought I’d share a couple of things I figured out along the way.

Lighting Matters

If you’re having more than a few tracking blips with your controllers, make sure you have enough light. I had better results when I had an overhead light turned on even though it wasn’t that dark without it. Playing near a sunny window also seemed to make the tracking a little worse, but I’m guessing it depends on the strength of the direct light you’re getting. There were also old, single pane windows so that may let the sunlight interfere more than modern windows.

Use a Controller to Calibrate the Floor

When you do the initial room calibration, it’ll show you an overlay on top of your floor and ask you to confirm it’s correct. For me, it looked correct in headset, but several games just felt off. Doors were too short, things were positioned awkwardly (like cubes in Beat Saber – they would be almost on the ground), etc. I re-calibrated and left one of the controllers on the floor during the floor calibration step…that solved all of the scale/positioning issues.

Android TV Apps

If you enabled “Developer Mode” on your headset (you do this in the Oculus mobile app under Settings for your headset), then you can use Android TV apps. You have to “sideload” them which will involved installing some developer tools, but once you have those tools setup, it’s trivial to load up a few apps. I tried Plex and Steam Link. Both worked great. I was able to stream Witcher 3 to my Quest and play on a giant screen without much lag using an Xbox 360 controller connected to the Quest’s USB-C port with an OTG cable. When you load these TV apps, you’ll have to use the “TV” menu in Oculus Home – they won’t show up under the normal library apps.

Get the Right Fit

I had a heck of a time getting the headset to fit properly. I followed Oculus’ instructions in the app, but to get the headset to stay in position, I had to tighten down the side straps so much that it was incredibly uncomfortable – far too much pressure on my cheek/sinus area. It did stay in place, but I couldn’t tolerate it for more than 20-30 minutes. I found this YouTube video that used an alternate method to fit the straps and it worked much better for me. I wouldn’t call it comfortable, however, this at least pushed the weight to my forehead which was certainly more comfortable than the original fit Oculus recommended.

5 Tips on Low Carb Living

At the time I’m writing this, I’ve been living a low carb lifestyle for over 4 and a half years. I started back in September 2014. I see more and more people getting started on a low carb and/or keto lifestyle for various reasons, so I thought I’d contribute a few tips I’ve learned over the years. Also, I’m not a doctor (talk to yours), this is simply my experience and may or may not apply for you.

NOTE: For purposes of this article, I’m talking more about low carb (which to me, means 50-ish grams of net carbs a day or less) than keto (which to me, means 20 grams or less of net carbs a day). I’ve tried, and like, both types of low carb living, but more people are able to adapt to low carb than keto in my opinion, so I’ll focus on that.

Tip 1 – Start with your “why”

Why are you trying to be low carb? In my case, my blood pressure was high, I was technically obese, and my first child was on the way. I wanted to be healthier and ideally, avoid taking medication to get there. I wanted to have the energy to play with my daughter as she grows up and since heart disease seems to be more common in my family, I wanted to make sure I had my blood pressure under control while I’m young to help me (hopefully) avoid plenty of issues in the future.

If you don’t know why you’re doing low carb or you have a reason, but it’s not your reason (i.e. your doctor told you to), then you’re going to have a hard time. You need to find your “why” so that every time you think about getting off the low carb train, you can remind yourself why you started in the first place.

If your reason isn’t strong enough, you’re going to be constantly fighting an uphill battle in your mind.

Tip 2 – Try not to replicate high carb foods

Yes, you’ll find all kinds of “low carb” versions of nearly any high carb food. If you need to make these substitutes to keep yourself on course, then go for it, but, know that very few of these “fake” high carb foods are going to be what you expect. If you’re just swapping out a low-fat ingredient for a high-fat one or swapping regular sugar for a sugar substitute, then it may be pretty faithful to the original.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to make a regular cake where you’re changing the primary ingredient (wheat flour) to something like almond flour, be ready for disappointment. I’m not saying these things taste bad, but if you’ve been eating wheat flour all of your life, you’re going to have expectations about how these things are supposed to taste and they aren’t going to meet those expectations.

For me, all these types of substitutes did was remind me how much I miss the “real thing”. It’ll be much easier if you keep these types of things to a minimum.

Tip 3 – Lean into the fat

When you first start, you’re going to feel like you’re eating a lot of fat. If you’re like me, you’ve believed fat was bad your whole life so there may be some type of mental block that keeps you from upping your fat intake as you should.

When you do that, you’re going to cut carbs (hopefully) AND cut fat, which leaves you with just protein. It’s going to cause you to be pretty hungry and you’re going to feel pretty deprived. If you do that for too long, you’re not going to be able to stay on the low carb bandwagon because you’re likely getting so few calories that you really are starving.

The sooner you accept that you need to eat more fat and that fat should be the vast majority of your calories any given day, the sooner you’ll be able to adapt to the new lifestyle. If you like to eat things that are leaner (e.g. I like sirloin steak – fatty/gristly steak just doesn’t appeal to me even now), just add extra butter or oil.

Tip 4 – Watch for hidden sugars in sugar substitutes and products marketed as “low carb”

You’re probably getting the hang of looking for sugars on food labels, but one thing you should watch out is a dirty trick on lots of items you’d expect to be low carb. Yes, read the regular nutrition label – if you see lots of sugar listed, then avoid it. In some cases though, you’ll see a low number of carbs, but when you look at the ingredients list, you’ll see that it has quite a bit of sugar in it.

For example, I used to use powdered Splenda. There is less than 1g of carbohydrate in a serving of powdered Splenda. Wonderful! You can use it to replace sugar in recipes and get basically no carbs right?

Wrong. If you look at the serving size, a serving is 1tsp. Then, if you look at the ingredients, the first ingredient (which means it’s the most prevalent ingredient in the food item) is maltodextrin. That a straight up simple carb that is going to spike your blood sugar levels even more than regular table sugar. If you end up using a cup of this stuff in a recipe to replace sugar, you’re getting a (relative) ton of carbs and you’re going to cause a big insulin response.

Quite a few low carb products end up using dextrose and maltodextrin in large amounts. Avoid those. For the record though, the liquid Splenda is usually just water and sucralose, so if you’re going to use Splenda, use the liquid kind.

What about sugar alcohols? That one is more complicated.

I personally subtract them but avoid some of the ones that are known to raise blood sugar levels. Maltitol is one that will likely trigger some blood sugar change, though less than a normal “carb” would. I personally try to stick to erythritol and/or liquid stevia, but you really have to figure out what works for your specific taste buds and body chemistry.

Tip 5 – Plan ahead

You can find low carb options when you’re dining out, but what you’ll probably find is most restaurants serve dishes that aren’t very satisfying when you remove the carbs. Maybe they don’t have many/any low carb sides, so you get just the entree. Great – you’re staying low carb, but you probably ended up getting a lean protein and maybe some butter or oil and that’s about it.

Most places consider low fat (which almost always means higher carb) to be healthy, so they simply don’t have many options for you. Steakhouses are about the only place I’ve found where you can more or less get a filling, healthy, low carb meal off the menu. Burger places are ok, but you may have to get a more expensive double or triple patty burger to make up for the lack of fries (or whatever side you normally get).

The only way I’ve found to combat this is to make my own meals 90% of the time.

Worst case, buy a lot of common low carb foods so you can make yourself a variety of simple low carb foods and throw out anything high carb at home (if you can’t resist it). A better approach is to do a real meal plan. Figure out what low carb things you’d like to eat and buy all of the needed ingredients at once (I like to shop once a week for the whole week’s meals).

Make it so it’s easy to know what you need to make each day and make sure the ingredients are handy so there is as little friction as possible. Even better, meal prep several low carb options at the start of the week so on those busy days when you don’t feel like cooking, you can just grab a pre-made meal from the fridge or the freezer.

Find what works for you

As I mentioned in the beginning, this is what has worked for me. Everyone is going to be different and it’s critical that you figure out what works for you.

If you’re having to force yourself to stay low carb after the first couple of weeks, you probably need to tune something. Getting started is hard, but you shouldn’t be feeling like you’re fighting yourself week after week after the initial adjustment period. If you get the benefits of low carb eating because you do it for a month and then you go back to eating your regular diet, you’re going to be right back where you started.

This has to be easy enough for it to become your default lifestyle. If it isn’t, adjust until it is.