PlayStation VR release date: October 2016
PlayStation VR price: £349 / $399
Sony unveiled its own virtual reality headset for Playstation 4, which bears for now the code name “Project Morpheus .” In a video game universe where the Oculus Rift is a pioneer, Sony seeks to take advantage of this enthusiasm by announcing its own immersive helmet. This is not the first model of the Japanese brand in this for years, but this is the first to be really suited to the game. This helmet mark the true arrival of Sony in the game in virtual reality, in the same mind that the Oculus Rift, except that the Project Morpheus is dedicated solely to the PS4.
The Project Morpheus, as it was unveiled at the Conference Developpers Game (March 17-21, 2014 in San Francisco), is smaller than the helmets lines HMZ (3D headset) already submitted by Sony. The design of the device presented more like a final product that the Oculus Rift prototype with its blue LEDs that refer to the atmosphere of the movie Tron.
According to Richard Marks Research and Development at Sony, ambitions for Project Morpheus go well beyond the game, with confirmed partnerships with NASA and projects of use to enable an immersive access to science. Similar projects are also underway at Oculus Rift and other developers of these technologies.
How we use this helmet? With the usual Sony commands: the PlayStation Eye camera, the DualShock 4.
The Project Morpheus SDK that Sony currently uses is based on a 1080p display with a viewing angle of over 90 degrees. It uses a solution of analysis of the position and rotation of the head, manages an area of three meters of the user, and permits movement at 360 degrees, and allows to use the DualShock 4 and Move in same time.
But for now, the headset Project Morpheus is not wireless. Such an approach is of course to study at Sony, but certainly will not be proposed shortly.
Some developers are already working to offer new experiences from this helmet, some heavyweight gaming as Crytek and Epic. This is good news for Sony who will need to make its immersion technology a success.
Sony has four demonstrations for its “Project Morpheus” this week: Eve Valkyrie, one of the flagship games of the Oculus Rift, which arrives on PlayStation 4, the Thief game from Square Enix, and two interactive demonstrations to show technology: The Deep and Castle.
Castle and The Deep were shown at the conference. The Deep is the most limited of both. You are a diver in a cage shark armed with a mere flare gun. The game is controlled by a DualShock controller 4. The head movements only serve to see its environment, the diver can not move in his cage.
The band incorporates 4 LEDs that analyze your movements to the front, and the camera of the Playstation 4 is also very valuable to track movements. There are two additional LED at the back to record the movements of your head when you want to look behind you. You can look down and see your character’s legs and bend knees. One can also see his chest. Everything is really immersive.
At the design level the game is okay, but especially impressive when the shark appeared. Sometimes you make the effort to remember that this is not reality.
Castle lets you do more things. It is possible to use two Move controllers (one in each hand). The beginning shows an empty armor he can hit. It uses the technology of the precision light to pass movements in impacts. It is also possible to move the armor in 3D with joysticks. Being in demo mode, difficult to assess the extent of the possibilities of the helmet. But the immersion feeling is very strong, and again, we must make an effort to remember that it is only virtual reality.
At the hardware level, the Morpheus headset is relatively light, and easy to put on. A highlight of the Morpheus headset concerns glasses. If the Rift, the glasses must be positioned precisely and close to the face to get a sharp image. It is different with the Morpheus from Sony. The images are crisp on the helmet of the Japanese manufacturer, even the glasses away a few centimeters.
Morpheus headband can quickly be a bit painful for the nose if it is set incorrectly. The adjustment plays a key role. It is tailor-made, and sweat and wetness coming soon. Something that has not been observed in the Rift.
If Project Morpheus technology is impressive, it will be the most successful experiences, finished to know exactly the real possibilities of this helmet. For now, with all required equipment, virtual reality is still a gimmick, but the potential is there.
Many issues remain unresolved, such as price or the date of marketing. More importantly, this technology does provide improved immersion and interaction interesting enough compared to the current way of playing? One might think that this is the case, but perhaps we are still years of a truly product ready to change the habits of players.