At the Game Developers Conference this past week Sony decided to throw its hat into the Virtual Reality ring, seeming to, but not necessarily following in the footsteps of Oculus, the company who re-ignited the gaming world's passion about Virtual Reality after the huge letdowns of severely limited products in the 90's, by unveiling their prototype for a new VR headset they have decided to name (for the time being) 'Project Morpheus', possibly a nod to either Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams, or the sage-like character from 'The Matrix' films.
According to Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, Sony has been working on VR projects since 2009, when Sony was developing Playstation Move. By 2010, they had a dedicated internal team devoted solely to VR development.
Yoshida pointed out that this is not the final product, only a prototype, and went on to share some of the current specs, such as:
1000Hz motion detection
Full 360 degrees of view
Content can be mirrored to a TV, but it seems it has the possibility of asymmetric gameplay (different things on each screen ala Nintendo's Wii U)
“Open air” design prevents the lenses from fogging up.
Positional/rotational head tracking
It also has a more ergonomic headset design, tailored to keep the weight of the device balanced on the top of the head, not the bridge of the nose like early versions of VR headsets tended to do. Tracking is handled by the same camera that tracks PS4 Move controllers, and gameplay will allow players to use the Move controllers as well as the PS4 controller. Demo games for the device received rave reviews from multiple sources, and highlight the immersive feel that a VR headset should give known as 'presence', as described in this Playstation blog post.
The downsides to the current specs are that only one headset can be supported at a time, and the headset will most likely have to be wired into the PS4 to work. The current prototype is tethered by a 5-meter wire. Yoshida also confirmed that there would be no 2014 commercial launch, leaving us to wait until at least next year to be able to play PS4 games in full immersion.
As for Oculus being worried about some competition to the VR field, Nate Mitchell, VP of Product at Oculus was very welcoming to the idea of having another company get into the VR game, saying in an interview with IGN before the unveiling:
"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."