Quest Techie: Failed Chromecast Streaming and Unique Solutions
The Oculus Quest is a great virtual reality headset. Its portable nature makes it a shoo-in for parties, family get-togethers or even team building exercises at work. But VR doesn’t work in a party environment unless people can see what the player is seeing. The Quest comes with streaming built-in; but the implementation may be causing you grief (if not now, then at your next party). I’m here to help!
The Oculus Quest headset is built upon Google’s Android platform — much like Amazon’s Fire series is. Like Amazon, Oculus takes great care to hide this fact from you, but from time to time, you’ll see a little peek of Android come out.
Chromecast is for Movies — Not Gaming
One such feature is the support of Chromecast — Google’s own video streaming technology.
On one hand, this makes complete sense. It was probably “free or cheap” for Oculus to implement and the popularity of these little dongles almost guarantees almost everyone has one.
The other hand tells a different tale. Chromecast was intended to stream non-real time, non-interactive video content. Thanks to buffering, these devices can pre-cache a little bit of video to ensure there is a smooth playback; even if your wifi quality drops a little or your internet hiccups. Losing a thousand milliseconds (1000ms = one second) of stream doesn’t interrupt your favorite movie; the buffer ensures this.
That’s all well and good for movies and television viewing.
It isn’t well and good for video that really needs to be as close to real time as possible — any lag in video of someone playing something like Beat Saber on Expert+ will render the audience experience almost useless.
Even a half a second (500ms) can ruin the audience experience depending on the game.
Before we move on, let me tell you that you are unlikely ever to see latency (delay of video from the time it was created until the time it is seen) of as low as 500ms (half a second). The best I can do in “the lab” is 700ms and that is with a set up you likely don’t have and likely don’t want to invest money into.
It Doesn’t Work At All?!
I keep a daily eye on the r/OculusQuest sub on Reddit and there are tons of people that can’t even get Chromecast connectivity working at all; latency be damned.
Even folks with no other issues with Chromecast in their infrastructure can have a DOA streaming scenario surrounding Quest.
These people are frustrated and upset; and rightly so. Parents are buying Quest as “whole family gifts” this year, and the inability to partake — even as a spectator —this could ruin the whole holiday.
Tighten The Loop
If your Chromecast streaming solution isn’t working? It is your network. Make peace with this and accept it. Acceptance is the first step in healing.
Now, what you need to do is get as much of your network as you can out of the loop. You’ve accepted it is your network, right? Good.
Removing your current wifi solution is where we are going to start. To do that, you’re going to need to make some financial investments.
Start with the RavPower FileHub. This is $56 from Amazon and has 101 uses outside of what we’re going to use it for; it is a traveler’s best friend. Remember, Amazon has easy and free returns, so there is no good reason not to try this.
We’re not going to go through a detailed setup of this device in this article (if there is demand, I’ll go through it).
However, it isn’t that hard to configure for this use. Essentially, it is an “access point”.
You’re going to plug this guy into your network with a cable (that gives you internet access — required for streaming) and we’re going to use it as a 5Ghz access point.
You will connect your Quest and your Chromecast device to the FileHub instead of your own wifi solution. This is almost guaranteed to solve your problem because this is as simple of a solution as possible.
This also does you the great service of isolating your Quest “streaming leg” of the network from all the other noise and nonsense going on in your house. You have your own “pocket network” for streaming from the Quest to the TV.
It Already Works — It Just Sucks
As we said before, you cannot expect miracles. Chromecast is what we have, but it isn’t ideal. There is a saying you can use a screwdriver to pound in a nail, but a hammer would be so much better.
We don’t have a hammer. So we need to make the screwdriver as effective as possible.
Whether you just got Chromecast working — or you’re just unhappy with the latency (let me guess … you’re getting almost a second and a half, right?) there are a few things you can do.
The Better Solution
First, consider the solution outlined in the section above. This isolates off your Quest streaming “leg” from all the other nonsense going on in your house. Believe me, there is nonsense going on; especially if you have teenagers. There are a many reasons why the solution above works better than your existing configuration.
- You control where the wifi access point is; 5ghz is finicky about walls and obstacles. Your home router probably isn’t going anywhere; the FileHub can go anywhere (almost).
- The streaming leg is totally isolated and all available pipe is exclusively for your use.
- This FileHub can go with you to a party, friends and family homes — and you can much easier set up a turnkey, repeatable quality solution with this.
Get Rid of A WiFi Leg
Most Chromecast devices require wifi. The Quest requires wifi. That’s TWO legs of wireless connectivity that slows things down. Two possible purity-of-stream issues. Two things largely outside your control.
Instead of using a wifi Chromecast? Get a wired Chromecast compatible device. The right answer is the Shield TV from NVIDIA.
Remember, the solution needs to be wired and Chromecast Revision 3 compatible. There aren’t many of those. The Shield TV can be any generation; I use the Shield TV (2017) edition when I travel to parties, and the Shield TV Pro (2015) edition at home. These older models can be had on the cheap from ebay and Craigslist as people are flocking to the newer models being sold currently.
This is what that network configuration might look like.
Your mileage is always subject to vary, of course. But when you ask the doctor what vitamins they take or the dentist what toothpaste he uses; you take that advice, right? This is the configuration I prefer.
If your router is a real part of the problem, this may not be optimum for you.
If you have a high volume of wifi traffic going on in your home or this configuration doesn’t net the results you want, you could go this way.
This “hybrid” solution offers a couple of perks — despite not being the fastest solution (this clocks in at 800ms vice 700ms for wired):
- Your casting leg is totally isolated from the rest of the house; that pipe is all yours.
- The Shield TV is a far more powerful device than a Chromecast and while I can’t prove it; I believe the latency is helped by having that extra power behind it. It also does everything you could possibly want a set top box to do; it is a solid investment.
- You can easily pull the FileHub and Shield TV and take it on the road to your family gatherings (which is exactly what I do)
- I’ve fully tested it and confirm it works as promised
Isn’t There a Cheaper Way?
How much is your time worth? I’m betting you’ve got several hours in on this problem already, right? You’ve posted on social media, Reddit, contacted support … how much is your Personal Time Salary? Mine is roughly $60 an hour (that will make sense if you read that article).
If a $56 device can save you several hours; hair pulling, swearing, possibly kicking your cat … Is it worth it?
That being said, you can take the principles from this article (leg segmentation, wired devices, etc.) and possibly apply it using hardware you already own.
Take my advice — though. Invest in something that will streamline this Quest casting process. It will come up again and again. Not just at home, but when you’re entertaining or showing the Quest off at your work’s Christmas Party (that’s me next week, by the way).
If you have any other solutions or tricks and tips, be sure to comment below!