Virtual Desktop has been around for some time now, and it is available on all PC VR systems (including the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, and SteamVR). It’s a neat application with many capabilities. I think it’s pretty exciting to use Virtual Desktop on the Oculus Quest because it shows that you don’t need to tether your headset to another computer or game console in order to run apps like this. Let’s go over the basics before we dive into how awesome Virtual Desktop is!
First off, Virtual Desktop works as a windowed application in VR. Meaning that you can have other VR games launched inside of windows within a virtual environment. You can resize those windows as needed – even going fullscreen if you wish. You can also launch non-VR apps in windows, but if you try to go fullscreen with these, Virtual Desktop will simply stretch the image.
The default virtual desktop is incredibly large and realistic – it does a great job of making you feel like you’re in your own personal movie theater. The resolution is pretty high which makes the text look great up close (like when I’m writing this article). Overall the feeling of being inside of a windowed cinema is what gives Virtual Desktop its charm.
I could talk about this for days, but I’ll stop here so that I don’t bore everyone! Let’s get into how awesomely simple it is to use Virtual Desktop on Oculus Quest…
Virtual Desktop has been available on other PC VR systems for a while now. The way it works is that you have to simply launch the app from your PC, and then put on your headset. You can either use a gamepad or a mouse & keyboard to navigate around. It’s pretty limited in what you’re able to do – which isn’t a problem at all considering that this is meant to be used as a “personal movie theater.”
With Virtual Desktop, you can launch apps that are running on your computer into windows within the virtual environment. So if I want to open up Edge browser and browse Facebook, I simply hit the start button within the application and select “Launch Application” from this window:
In my case, I’ll select Edge Browser from my desktop:
The screen is in a little bit of a weird spot, but I can still read everything.
Virtual Desktop will launch whatever application is in my “C:\Program Files\WindowsApps” folder – this could be games as well as apps from the Microsoft Store. For those who don’t know, to open up the WindowsApps folder you need to right-click on your Start Menu and go into File Explorer:
From there you will see all of your apps that are installed. Virtual Desktop reads whatever files are located within the C:\Program files\WindowsApps location. So if you have any .exe programs running from there, Virtual Desktop has access to them.
I’ll open up Edge browser and now it looks like this:
The resolution is incredibly high and the text looks great. You could even resize this window if you’d like, but I’ll just leave it at full screen so that it’s easier to read.
Here’s what my desktop looks like:
I can launch any application from here and they will show up within Virtual Desktop in a “window”. It works for Windows 10 apps, Steam games, or anything else that I have installed on my PC that is located in the C:\Program Files\WindowsApps location.
When playing non-VR games in Virtual Desktop, you won’t want to go fullscreen (unless you want them stretched across your entire cinema). Therefore, when launching something like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR, I’ll select “Launch Application” and then select “Windowed Mode”
I can resize this any time after it launches, so I’ll make sure to show you that too. Here’s what the game looks like on my giant virtual screen!
The resolution is pretty incredible on Virtual Desktop – it covers almost my entire field of view without looking stretched or distorted. With some games (such as Skyrim VR) you can adjust the FOV through a console command which helps with distortion even more… but we’ll talk about that in another article 😀
Here’s what I have running right now:
It looks like this for me in Virtual Desktop:
From here, I can go fullscreen and everything will look amazing:
Up next we have the Oculus Quest version of Virtual Desktop:
So if you’re anything like me, then you may be wondering how to access all of your other “normal” PC apps and games on the Oculus Quest (and not just ones that were designed for VR). I’m happy to report that there is a way! It’s actually easier than installing an application on my phone. Here’s what I’ll do next…
For normal applications or Steam games, I simply need to use the Xbox One controller that comes with Oculus Quest. To launch them into a windowed environment, I can select “Launch Application” from within Virtual Desktop. When prompted, point the controller at this location which allows apps outside of the Store to run in Windows Mixed Reality: In my case, I’ll point it at the folder that contains my normal non-VR applications:
Once you select a location, Virtual Desktop will launch whatever application is there into a window. Here’s what happens if I try to launch Edge Browser from this location:
Now we have a problem… because apps that aren’t installed within the “protected” area of the Oculus Store can’t open outside of Virtual Desktop. The good news is, however, that Steam games can be launched in this way! When selecting one of these applications through the controller method, Virtual Desktop will prompt me for access – but instead of using your phone or computer keyboard to type in your password or PIN code, simply hold down on the Home button on the right controller of Oculus Quest :
Your PIN code will be entered on the virtual keyboard that pops up – press enter and your game/app will start! You can’t resize or adjust the window like normal, but it’s still pretty awesome to play non-VR games right on there. Here’s what Skyrim VR looks like on Virtual Desktop through Steam:
Here are some other examples I’ve had so far with different applications & settings:
Virtual Desktop has an option for “Screen Curve” which allows you to choose between “Flat”, “Reon-VX”, “Cinema”, and curvier options. It doesn’t seem to change anything for me though… Even when choosing a curved screen type, Virtual Desktop looks identical on my screen.
I’m really enjoying playing games in my Oculus Quest through Virtual Desktop – it makes for a very convincing in-home theater entertainment experience! And if you have an Xbox One X, you can use the Controller to launch Steam in Big Picture Mode where the graphics are even better than when launched by Virtual Desktop… but I’ll save that for another article 😉
If this is your first time hearing about Virtual Desktop, hopefully, these insights get you excited about their vision of VR / non-VR / mixed reality on your Oculus Quest. It’s pretty incredible stuff! Thank you so much for reading, and let me know what else you’d like me to share with you on this topic or any other related topics. I’m always here & happy to help!
Have a great day… and stay curious!!!