Sony appears to be entering the virtual reality market with its new prototype headset, currently named Project Morpheus (named after the Greek God, not the movie character of course). The unit was announced by Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Worldwide Studios, during the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco on the 19th of March. This announcement follows a current push in gaming to move into the realm of virtual reality.
Virtual reality became the talk of the town late September of 2012 when Oculus VR, based in Irvine, California, successfully raised over $2.4 million dollars during the course of their Kickstarter campaign. Money that they then used to create their popular Oculus Rift VR headset. Since then, game sites, as well as video streaming sites such as YouTube have been flooded with videos of satisfied customers expressing their wonder and amazement of this new medium. The advent of easy and affordable virtual reality brings a whole new way for game creators to enhance the gaming experiences of their customers.
Sony’s current prototype boasts a 1080p resolution display with a full 90+ degree field of view. Not only that, but the prototype is fully adjustable and will work if the user wears glasses, which is good news for myself and all glasses wearing kind. The biggest selling feature for this product is the fact that it will be fully supported and integrated into the PlayStation product line. In fact, the camera used to track this system will also double for tracking the DualShock 4 and PS move units commonly used with the PlayStation 4 system. This will be the first virtual reality headset to work with a video game console as the Oculus Rift currently only supports Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
This product is a good move for Sony as the buzz surrounding the Oculus Rift has been very positive. As gaming generations continue, game console makers have been forced to not only find ways to keep up with PC technology, but also to provide unique experiences exclusive to their brand. And while this product primarily allows Sony to keep up with PC trends, how they use this technology in their first party products could prove to be a massive selling point in favor of their PlayStation brand.
This product, however, does not address one of the potential drawbacks of virtual reality technology. That drawback also being its primary selling point, and that is immersion. One of the best features of these headsets is their ability to move the players view naturally with the players head movement. This can feel quite unnatural if the player does not move their body along with their head. This is why in some YouTube videos of VR headsets you will see the user attached to a set up composed of a harness and a movement sensing treadmill-like contraption. This allows the game to sense bodily movement. This technology connected with a virtual reality headset can make the player feel as if they are really inside the game. As of yet, however, Sony has not announced their own version of this technology.
If Sony insists on moving into the virtual reality marketplace, I wouldn’t be surprised if in a year or two we see a PlayStation branded movement pad to go along with their VR line.
By Austin Hopper