And just like that, the Virtual Reality wars have begun.
Firing a shot across the bow of Oculus (the company responsible for getting many people excited about virtual reality again, after the myriad flops of the 90s), Sony has just announced that they’re building a VR headset for the PS4.
Sony is calling it “Project Morpheus”, for now — a nod to the character from the Matrix, presumably.
Lest you think that Sony’s just hopping on the VR bandwagon now that Oculus has sparked a bit of popularity: according to Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, they’ve been tinkering with VR prototypes ever since they started working on the Playstation Move back in 2009. Back then, though, they were literally duct taping move controllers to their heads. In 2010, they created an internal group just for VR.
Yoshida was quick to point out that the prototype hardware, pictured above, isn’t final.
With that said, they did share some of the specs found in their current prototype:
- 1080p display
- 1000Hz motion detection
- Only one headset at a time is supported
- Headset is currently connected to the PS4 by a 5-meter wire
- Positional/rotational head tracking
- Tracking is handled by the same camera that tracks PS4 Move controllers
- It works for people with glasses
- Content pushed to the Morpheus can be mirrored to a TV, but it sounds like it can handle asymmetric gameplay (different things on each screen) as well.
- An “Open air” design prevents the lenses from fogging up. (It’ll be interesting to see how they prevent light leaking in)
As Sony sees it, there are six key areas they need to get perfect for VR to work: sight, sound, tracking, control, ease of use, and content. (Sorry, smellovision-hopefuls!)
Is Oculus doomed now that Sony has entered the court? Hardly. Oculus’ greatest achievement so far isn’t in building a pair of motion sensitive goggles — most companies that can build a smartphone could’ve done that, if they cared to.
Their greatest achievement is in getting people excited about Virtual Reality again. In getting many thousands of developers on board. In piquing the interest of people like John Carmack, and companies like Valve (who has comitted to share the virtual reality research with Oculus.) Building an active, excited developer ecosystem is a very, very hard thing to do.
Whatever the case, competition in this area is a very, very good thing. As Nate Mitchell, product of Oculus put it this morning in an interview with IGN prior to Sony’s announcement:
So, as far as the competition goes – we’ll have to see what they announce. We are all about having more people involved in the VR space though. The more developers are excited about virtual reality, and the bigger the audience is, the more likely they are to build VR content. So having a major player get behind virtual reality in a big way opens the door for more devs to build VR content. So, we’re really hopeful that they do it right – anyone that’s doing VR, the main thing is just to do it right.
Watch this space, friends — the fun is just beginning.