It’s real. After months of teasing and rumors Sony Computer Entertainment finally announced officially the virtual reality headset engineered for the Playstation 4.
The headset has been announced by SCE Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida during the “Driving the Future of Innovation at Sony Computer Entertainment” panel at Game Developers Conference.
According to Yoshida-san the VR headset, named Project Morpheus, has been in the works at SCE since 2010, starting with experiments executed by attaching a PlayStation Move controller to the headset itself, and then with further iterations.
The name “Project Morpheus” evokes the god of dreams, and symbolizes the fact that the headset should offer a dreamlike experience.
(pictures courtesy of the IGN liveblog, showing experiments in 2011 and 2012, the prototype in 2013 and the model showcased today)
Yoshida-san also mentioned that the prorotype shown today isn’t final, and will see more iterations and evolution. That said, it’ll be already playable at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) show floor starting tomorrow.
Sony has selected GDC to introduce Project Morpheus as it’s a developer-oriented show, and the current focus is to invite developers to create games for it; which explains why the device is being presented while it’s still in the prototype phase.
Senior Director Richard Marks also took the stage mentioning that he’s working on a project with NASA called “Mars Demo,” aimed to give the impression of really standing on the red planet. He continued by saying that the six principles of Virtual Reality are Sight, Sound, Tracking, Control, Ease of Use and Content, and that nailing those areas will allow Sony to open the technology to the mass market.
(Mars Demo picture courtesy of Geoff Keighley)
Sight requires a high resolution, high framerate display and specialized optics. The power of the PS4 will also be essential to render the world of virtual reality. Sound is essential to achieve the feeling of “presence” and Sony has a great heritage in sound design.
Tracking is what allows virtual reality to be like a personal theater on your head. The camera is essential to achieve that, and the PS Move’s technology is being used to help with it. Control is also important, and that’s why the DualShock 4’s sensor and light bar will be used in conjunction with Morpheus.
Ease of use is the next step, and users will be able to pick the headset up and use it with no issue. Finally, content will be a focus, not only from Sony’s internal studios, but also from external developers. Unity, Havok, Wwise, Gigantic, Autodesk Gameware, Criware, DDD, Silicon Studio, Epic Games, Bitsquid and Crytek will be taking part in Project Morpheus.
Marks also mentioned that virtual reality doesn’t necessarily need to be applied only to first person games, but third person ones are also possible.
“Presence” is ultimately the most important concept, and the following slide explained its most important caveats:
Driving games are also a great application, and virtual reality can be applied both to the steering wheel and to the pedals. Virtual tourism is a possibility, but ultimately games are still the best way to express and exploit VR technology.
You normally don’t imagine the Virtual reality experience to be social, but Sony envisions it as such, both with online and couch multiplayer. You can also project the image on your TV so that others can see what you’re doing, also enabling interesting asynchronous multiplayer experience.
The current devkit supports 1080p (1920xRGBx1080, 960xRGBx1080 per eye) resolution and a 90 degrees field of view. Tracking supports forward prediction. Position and rotating head tracking has the following specs: 1000HZ frequency, 3 Meter Working Volume, Full 360 Degrees rotation. Eye tracking is being researched.
The panel is a 5 inches LCD and the headset is equipped with an accelerometer and a gyroscope. It connects to the PS4 via USB and HDMI. A “Processor unit” is also included in the package.
True spatial sound (3D audio), synthesized by simulating the human ear is also supported. The headset manages to simulate sound coming from above and below the player.
The headset will be highly adjustable, comfortable for prolonged use, will support custom headphones and wearing glasses, and will place most of the weight on your head and not on your nose. The current prototype is wired, but Sony is investigating other solutions.
The current demos are Thief from Square Enix, EVE Valkyrie from CCP Games, The Castle and The Deep by Sony London Studio. Other Sony development teams are experimenting with the technology.
For the moment Project Morpheus is exclusive to PS4 and no PC support has been announced. A release date hasn’t been specified yet, and the only window that has been given is “as soon as possible.”