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Viveport Streaming review and comparison with Oculus Link

Finally I have been able to try Viveport Streaming, the solution that lets you use your Vive Focus Plus to play PC VR games via Wi-Fi streaming. I made various tests and so I can not only review it, but also compare it with its competitor solution, the Oculus Link. Are you intrigued?
Viveport Streaming – Video Review

I made a nice video where I present to you:

  • How to activate Viveport Streaming;
  • Me playing SuperHot and Beat Saber with it;
  • A video on controllers tracking;
  • My opinion about it.

I guess you will like it!

Viveport Streaming – Textual Review
As I said in the introduction, Viveport Streaming is HTC’s solution to let you play PC VR games with your HTC Standalone headset (in the future, with all Vive Wave standalone devices). Its peculiarity is that it works completely via Wi-Fi, so you need no cable to play your PC VR games, a bit like when you use Riftcat, Virtual Desktop on Quest or similar solutions. Of course, Wi-Fi offers even more challenges than the tethered streaming of Oculus Link, so you may wonder if it works well or not. Let me describe to you everything about Viveport Streaming, and how it compares with Oculus Link!
Setup
The setup of Viveport Streaming is a non-setup. If your Vive Focus Plus is up-to-date, it is in the same Wi-Fi network of your PC (that must have Viveport application open) and it is associated with a Viveport Infinity account, you have just to click on the Viveport Streaming icon in the top bar, select Start Streaming in the popup that comes out and that’s it. After that, you can select the PC VR game to play and then play it. Super-easy.

The system will auto-detect your PC, so once you have set everything up once, next times it is just a matter of pressing two buttons in Viveport UI. That’s impressive, and it is more or less as intuitive and easy as the setup of Oculus Link (another non-setup). I was even better to me because I had no issue in setting up Viveport Streaming, while I had some quirks while installing the Link. What is different from Oculus’s solution, is what happens after the setup. With Oculus Link, your standalone headset becomes completely a PC VR headset, and the only way to return back to your Quest is by detaching the cable. With Viveport Streaming, your Focus Plus keeps being a Focus Plus, but in the “Library” section you have a new tab where you see your PC VR games, that you can play. If you play them, the system will start the streaming from the PC, but your Focus will still be your standalone headset: in fact, whenever you press the Vive button on your controllers, you get back to the Viveport home of your Focus. It is nice that all of this is embedded into the OS.

Virtual reality can be used to simulate a number of experiences and enhance them.

Personally, I prefer this second approach, becauseit gives me the best of both worlds: I can have my standalone headset, and at the same time use it as a PC VR headset when I want it.

Streaming quality

I admit that before actually trying Viveport Streaming, I imagined that the visual quality was mediocre. With some streaming solutions I have tried in the past, there was occasional visual stuttering, artifacts, glitches, even temporary pauses in the visuals. Notice that I don’t use in my office a dedicated router for Wi-fi streaming, so the quality can’t be optimal and these problems are likely to occur.

With Viveport Streaming, this has never happened. The system never lost the tracking, never got mad, I never had big visual artifacts. I was impressed by its stability, considering that it was working on a shared local wireless network.

But this stability came at a price. I guess that HTC has given priority to stability over visual quality because the frames appeared compressed. When playing games with pretty detailed visuals like AirCar, I could notice that the video quality wasn’t the best that the Focus Plus could provide me. The texts in SteamVR Home were also less readable. I’m not saying that the quality was bad, but that it was noticeable that there was some compression happening.
viveport streaming reviewI tried shooting a through-the-lenses photo of Viveport Streaming, failing in doing it well. I will so just tell you my impressions: the visuals were good but they appeared a bit blurred because of the compression, and so also text readability was lower than on a PC VR headset
With Oculus Link, thanks to the high throughput of the USB 3 cable and the use of fixed foveated rendering, this problem is more or less the same in the peripheral area, but far less noticeable in the central part of the vision.

The State of VR in the Early 2000s. After so many capable devices on the market and so many let downs that didn’t truly capture the audience they deserved, virtual reality didn’t see much development in the early 2000s. Virtual Reality was at the background in the development of new technology. It took a step back, letting personal devices, such as computers, laptops, iPods, smartphones and tablets take over, which may very well have been the right step. With the development of new technologies, a new door was opened for virtual reality, because now head-tracking and capable displays were cheaper than ever before. However, it wasn’t before one start-up company mentioned the idea, that Virtual Reality truly took off on the consumer’s market.

Tracking & latency

Tracking and latency are probably the Achille’s heel of this solution.

When you move in space, you notice that the tracking is not completely fluid. Part of this problem is due to the Vive Focus Plus, that has not a perfect positional tracking, and here it is made even worse by the added latency of the streaming. This latency is little, but noticeable. Controllers suffer from a similar issue: the controllers of the Vive Focus Plus already jitter a bit, and with streaming, they also get more latency… that is not big, but it is there. The good thing is that in my tests, the system never lost the tracking of the controllers even during fast movements.

Testing Viveport Streaming controllers tracking in SteamVR idle scene. Controllers always remain tracked, but they jitter a bit, and lag a bit
I tried playing games like SuperHot, Beat Saber and also hanging around in SteamVR Home and other applications… and I had no problems because of these little tracking glitches. The latency and the trembling are not enough to be a true nuisance. In fact, HTC claims that it is possible to win Beat Saber Expert+ levels using it. But they are there and are noticeable, and I guess that they are a problem if you need to use a VR app where high precision is needed. Furthermore, when these problems get bigger, they can foster nausea in sensitive users.
Problems got bigger when I tried Robo Recall. In that case, the controllers really started stuttering and so did the positional tracking. I guess that the fact that Robo Recall is computationally heavy, plus the fact that I was playing an Oculus game through Revive through Viveport Streaming was maybe a bit too much 🙂 . In comparison, Oculus Link has much lower latency and more fluidity. Again, the use of the cable, plus the fact that the solution transforms completely the Quest in a tethered headset guarantees better results. Also, the fact that Oculus Insight Tracking is very good helps a lot.
Content & compatibility
At the end of the day, you can use this solution to play everything: Viveport games, Steam games, Oculus games (through Revive). I also tried using Unity with Viveport Streaming: I hit Play of our game HitMotion: Reloaded, and the game started. Unity SteamVR plugin could see my Focus as a VR headset. This solution is advertised as something working only with Viveport titles, but actually it works with everything. I was surprised and amazed. Regarding this, it is the same as the Oculus Link.

Virtual Reality Travel Is Exploding. Who hasn’t wanted to walk down the streets of Venice, or escape to a tropical climate during a particularly rough winter? Some with a travel bug may find that they can partially feed their need for travel through virtual reality. In the fall of 2015, Marriott boasted about its ability to transport clients from London to Maui in 90 seconds, thanks to Oculus. The concept behind the campaign was that people would be inspired to travel, and book with a Marriott hotel. Since then, Hilton, Renaissance, and many others have followed suit.

viveport streamingThat’s the score popup of our game HitMotion: Reloaded, played in Unity, through SteamVR. Notice that SteamVR has the icon of streaming in place of the one of a headset
The only problem is that sometimes there are issues with controllers mapping. With some games, you have to use SteamVR Input Mapping and choose the correct mapping to play with your Focus controllers. Robo Recall was one of these games: I could use the trigger, but I had no button that would let me teleport in space. I think that if HTC wanted to provide a tool to improve the content library available to Vive Focus Plus owners, it nailed it. Now Vive Focus Owners, won’t only be able to play the 300+ experiences on Viveport M, but also all the games on Viveport PC, Steam, Oculus Store, etc… This means thousands of content more. Also, developers can use the Focus+ to test directly their Steam applications in Unity. That’s great.
Wireless comfort
Playing games without a cable is really great. I have been able to play Beat Saber 360 levels on my Focus Plus without any issue. I have never played them with my tethered headset, but on the Focus, they worked like a charm thanks to the freedom of being wire-free.

This is where Viveport Streaming shines with regard to the Link: you have no cable to insert, no compatibility of the cable to verify, no tether to your PC. You can even have your PC in a room and play in another room, and everything works. You play in full freedom and it is so damn cool.
Final impressions

Viveport Streaming is better than I imagined it, butit is still far from being a perfect solution.HTC advertises it as a beta, and I think it is correct. The goal is ambitious and when it works, playing in full freedom without cables is a true delight.I want to praise the stability of the system, that never blocked, and never showed me big compression artifacts. I also loved thatthe solution was compatible with every kind of content that I tried it with.

Cave Digger VR

Cave Digger VR

But the latency, even if little, is noticeable, both in the positional tracking and in the controllers. And when it becomes worse because of a heavy game, or a congested network, it can become an issue. I wouldn’t recommend people that are very sensitive to motion sickness to use this solution yet. The Vive Focus also contributes itself to these issues with its non-perfectly-fluid tracking. I think that when HTC will solve these problems on the device, also Viveport Streaming will benefit from it.

PSVR headset was developed from Sony engineers tinkering in a Lab building quietly without any executive direction.

Glitch of the controllers in Beat Saber menu
Comparing it with the Oculus Link, the cons of this solution are that Link has:
  • Better tracking fluidity;
  • Less latency;
  • Better image quality(less compression).

While Viveport Streaming has:

  • Dual mode (you can still use your standalone as a standalone headset);
  • Wireless freedom.
All of this was predictable even before testing it, because of course using wireless is a great thing, but it also introduces lots of problems. Oculus itself said that it experimented with Wi-Fi, but dropped it to use a cable because it guaranteed a better visual quality.

I would say that Oculus’s solution is more polished and more conservative, HTC’s solution is less refined and more ambitious.

In the end, I think that Viveport Streaming is a good start to offer Wi-fi streaming from PC. If HTC will keep improving it over these months reducing latency and improving compression of the stream, maybe in the future I can consider using this to substitute my PC headset. For now, I think it is a nice-to-have beta that is mostly useful for people that have a Vive Focus Plus and want to play thousands of PC VR games from Viveport, Steam, etc…

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