You can watch Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other streaming services in virtual reality with an Oculus headset. Here’s how.
While it’s seen by many as a gaming device, an Oculus virtual reality headset can do so much more. It’s actually an incredible way to view streaming video.
Thanks to the affordable price, improved resolution of the Quest 2, and the growing library of compatible streaming apps, you can experience complete viewing privacy, massive simulated screens, and new levels of video portability.
So, what streaming services are available for the Quest headsets, and what viewing experience can you expect from each? Let’s find out.
Ever the innovator, Google’s YouTube was one of the first platforms to not only support virtual reality hardware, but also the 180-degree and 360-degree videos such headsets can display. The company continue to offer strong VR support, which is clear from its excellent YouTube app for the Oculus Quest headsets.
YouTube currently offers its YouTube VR app for the Oculus Quest and Quest 2. The software gives you access to the standard YouTube library, complete with your personal subscriptions and watchlists. However, it also highlights content specifically designed for VR playback, including full 360-degree videos and even live sport and entertainment experiences.
You can enjoy the full range of entertainment and education experiences that you would normally watch on a PC, tablet, or smartphone, as well as unique experiences that can only be consumed via virtual reality. The latter library has highlights such as virtual tours of famous institutions like the British Museum, live sporting events like Wimbledon, and blockbuster concerts like Travis Scott, Metallica, and AC/DC.
Unlike the other apps on this list, Netflix for the Quest focuses entirely on 2D video. Because of this, there’s no fancy screen floating in a black void or simulated star field. Instead, you find yourself seated on a virtual couch in a cozy-looking living room complete with artwork on the walls, magazines on the coffee table, and, most importantly, a massive TV in front of you.
The interface on that TV should be familiar to anyone who’s used Netflix recently. The display on the simulated TV looks like and operates identically to the Netflix app found on smart TVs and streaming sticks, complete with your Continue Watching and My List content. There’s also the familiar selection of customized rows and universal sections like Top 10.
Prime Video VR falls between YouTube VR and Netflix, offering a small amount of VR-specific content, but nowhere near as much as can be found within the YouTube library. The main menu for the app is easily the most whimsical of the three, placing you in a miniature neighborhood that seems to be made of cardboard and construction paper.
When you select VR content, you’ll be taken to a 180-degree or 360-degree video player. However, select any of the shows or movies from the full Prime Video library, and you’ll instead be transported inside a theater—the same one that you can spot within the aforementioned paper craft neighborhood.
Once inside, you’ll get to watch your chosen video in a simulated movie theater with a massive screen, theater seats, and even a virtual ceiling with acoustic tiles. All of your typical playback controls appear on the theater screen just like they would on your TV at home, regardless of whether you’re playing a VR-specific or standard 2D video.
What Other Streaming Apps Does Oculus Support?
Unfortunately, most of the other major streaming services don’t have apps available on the Quest or Quest 2 at the time of writing. While it is possible that services like Disney+, Peacock, and HBO Max could make their way to Oculus headsets, especially if the hardware’s popularity continues to grow, it isn’t currently possible to watch content from these services.
That’s true even if you simply wanted to load up those service’s websites in the Oculus’ built-in browser. Unfortunately, the only service among those mentioned in this article that currently works within the Oculus browser is YouTube.
This holds true for both the built-in Oculus browser, and for any of the available methods of remotely accessing your PC from within the Quest or Quest 2. We tested Virtual Desktop and Oculus’ own Air Link app. Both will load any of the aforementioned services’ websites, but the actual player displays only a black screen when attempting to play any videos.
, , and do offer Oculus apps, alongside a few other lesser-known and VR-specialist streaming apps. Unfortunately, these apps are, for the most part, poorly rated and appear to be problematic for many users.
Complaints found within the Oculus Store’s user reviews range from issues with connecting these apps to associated subscription accounts, to incompatibility with third-party subscriptions (a Showtime subscription acquired via Comcast, for instance), to simply not working at all with little or no response from their respective developers about ongoing issues.
Is the Quest Right for Your Video Viewing Needs?
Although there are some limitations to work through, and the selection of available streaming services is currently somewhat more limited, the potential offered by watching videos on the Quest and Quest 2 is massive. The headset essentially gives you a huge, albeit simulated, TV (or entire movie theater) that you can toss in a backpack, take with you on a plane, and watch anywhere with a stable internet connection.
Given the fact that you would struggle to get anything larger than a budget-model 40-inch TV for the same cost, without any of the additional VR gaming functionality provided by the Quest or Quest 2, it’s hard to imagine anyone primarily interested in a solo viewing experience wouldn’t want to at least consider one of these versatile Oculus headsets for their personal streaming video and VR gaming needs.