Introducing The Playstation VR
With Samsung’s Gear VR getting a handy head start in the consumer market for virtual reality headsets, and the Oculus Rift launching properly before any other serious competition, the Playstation VR has its work cut out to beat the opposition.
But that hasn’t fazed Sony, who clearly believe they can take a large portion of the market share.
And they’re probably right. There are millions of PS4s throughout the world, and a captive base of millions of gamers. Many of whom will be very interested in seeing what the Japanese gaming giant can do with virtual reality technology.
Designed to work with the Playstation 4, and potentially future console developments, the Playstation VR will deliver the result of Sony’s first attempt to grab a sizeable portion of the virtual reality market. It’s one of the new breed of VR headset devices that are built specifically to display immersive virtual reality images in the form of games, videos, and experiences.
For a gamer, the feeling of presence, of actually being in the game, will be the key benefit the headset brings. Effectively the VR takes over a wearer’s experience of reality, and replaces it with a virtual world with sensors built in that make the body and brain feel as if it was immersed in that virtual environment.
The result is the actual ‘real’ feeling of being somewhere else, in effect you’re ‘present’ in an alternative reality
Originally known as Project Morpheus, the name was changed to Playstation VR in 2015 in readiness for introduction in October 2016. With something like 36 million PS4 owners all over the world, Sony are perfectly placed to take a significant portion of the virtual reality market – provided the Playstation VR can deliver a high quality experience at an affordable price.
We a already know the device will handle not just specially designed virtual reality games, but all PS4 game titles in fact. It’ll show non-VR games on a big screen in cinematic mode right in front of your eyes in 2D.
After initially announcing the project at the 2015 Game Developers Conference held in San Francisco in March 2015, reports are that Sony are expecting the device to launch to market in October of 2016.
The PlayStation VR will sell across regions at the following prices: $399 in North America, €399 in Europe, £349 in the United Kingdom, $549.95 in Australia, and ¥44,980 in Japan.
Crisp imaging is expected to be delivered via a 5.7-inch 1920 x RGB x 1080 resolution OLED display, with reduced motion blur and image flicker which combine to make up two of the big problems which are affecting early VR devices.
The OLED display allows a 120 frames per second output, which can be handled on the PS4 via a software update.The PS4 is not easily able to run games at this rate, but by some magic trickery the headset is able to take content running at 60fps on the console and output it at 120fps on the display. The technical solution that makes this work should become clearer in time.
This combination of the headset and the ultra reliable and high performance PS4 can deliver VR experiences of the highest quality.
Nine LEDs linked to motion tracking ensure the accuracy of that aspect, which will be an important factor in determining which of the new VR headsets sees long term success.The tracking technology has taken significant focus to get right, and now is expected to bring a solution with reduced latency between real body movement and the actual movement experienced while in the game.
Sony have also placed some emphasis on ease of use and the process of actually wearing the headset, with only a single band holding the unit to the head, and with effort placed into reducing weight as far as possible.
Display Method – OLED
Panel Size 5.7 inches
Panel Resolution 1920×RGB×1080 (960×RGB×1080 per eye)
Refresh rate 120Hz, 60Hz
Field of View Approximately 100 degrees
Sensors Accelerometer, Gyroscope
Connection interface HDMI + USB
The PS4 is of course a games console, so it won’t be a surprise that much of the VR content involved will be around gaming as opposed to experience type videos.
With Sony’s history in the field and tried and tested partnerships with game developers, we can anticipate some hard hitting VR titles.
On the games front, Sony are reportedly working with hundreds of developers to create compelling titles. As of the end of 2015 it was reported that over 50 game titles were in planning/development. Popular games are likely to include:
RIGS: Mechanized Combat League multiplayer, a first person shooter game in which you’ll enter a sports arena wearing armor protection suits and engage in three against three battles.Until Dawn: Rush of Blood promises to put you on a rollercoaster where different decisions you make will route you on to different tracks. At different points in the ride you’ll come under attack and shoot down the attackers.
Driveclub VR : High quality VR racing
Psychonauts: Rhombus of Ruin, a first person puzzle platform
Robinson: The Journey In this game you’re a child who has crashed on a planet inhabited by dinosaurs
Others include Final Fantasy, Dynasty Warriors, Gran Turismo Sport, Tekken 7, Rez, Ace Combat, 100FT Robot Golf, The Modern Zombie Taxi Co, Volume Coda.
With a seemingly straightforward starting point where you’ll only need the PS4 console and a VR headset to get started, any accessories and add-ons specifically related to the VR experience will possibly be included in that pack.
One potential key accessory was revealed in early 2016, with leaked reports of a trademark application filed by Sony for a “a glove interface object” and “thumb controller” specifically to be used in ‘rendering a virtual hand in a view of a virtual environment on a head-mounted display (HMD), the virtual hand being rendered based on the identified finger position pose.”
This all suggests that we may ultimately see a glove that’s used with the headset that represents the wearers hand in any virtual environment, with the thumb controller being the actual controller.
Once the Playstation VR headset is released, we’ll probably see a lengthy phase of content creation and release while the technology goes through a trial and acceptance phase, although it’s a near certainty that Sony’s developer teams will be working away in the background on improvements and maybe even much bigger future projects.
We’ll only be able to make a full judgement when we actually see the Playstation VR in the flesh, but early indications suggest it will sit slightly below the Rift and the HTC Vive in the performance stakes.
The external sensor that detects upper body movement is reportedly good, but will most likely struggle to match the higher powered competitors. Plus the lower resolution is also likely to have an impact. All in all Sony’s device will probably hit the same problem that consoles have when matched against high performance PC’s – the PC often wins handsomely.
That said, there are millions of PS4 owners who will only need to take a short step to get the VR experience. 36 million according to estimates. Sony are clearly well positioned to sell a huge number of devices, and will have an advantage in the number of games that will be available and the overall pricing.
This video from Sony gives a good preview of some of the games coming to the virtual reality device.