Sony has just unveiled a prototype Virtual Reality (VR) headset which will work with the PlayStation 4 at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco.
The black and white Virtual Reality headset codenamed Project Morpheus was shown off at the annual gathering of game designers at an event titled 'Driving the Future of Innovation'.
Project Morpheus is named after the Greek god of dreams and features a head-mounted display with 1080p resolution and a 90-degree field of view. The headset comes with built-in sensors to track the wearer's head movement in sync with the PlayStation Camera and PlayStation Move for motion control.
The virtual reality headset can connect to a PS4 console via USB or directly to your television via an HDMI port. Though the existing prototype uses a 5 metre cable, Sony is apparently planning to go wireless with the consumer release.
Price and Release Date
Virtual reality is seen by many as the next big thing in gaming technology with the Oculus Rift expected to be the first major device to be launched on the market. The Oculus Rift is expected to be released to the public before the end of 2014 or early in 2015.
Sony has yet to release details of when Project Morpheus will be launched or how much it will cost.
As ArsTechnica reports, with a space of 15mm to 25mm between the eye and the lens, the unit is said to be highly adjustable with an "open air design" for proper airflow to your face to avoid overheating while also blocking outside light getting to your eyes.
Project Morpheus in action
Anton Mikhailov, a senior software engineer with Project Morpheus, shared his experience about the future of VR technology and its potential for gaming:
"The experience can be shared, and that's only going to allow it to spread. I think that's going to be the key. Once people see someone else interacting in VR, they're going to want to put it on and try it next."
Some people will get a chance to see Project Morpheus in action at GDC as Sony will be demoing the headset with four new games: diving cage simulator The Deep; sci-fi dogfighter EVE: Valkyrie; medieval combat game The Castle; and a VR rendition of the stealthy action-adventure title Thief.
Three years in the making
Shuhei Yoshida, the president of Sony Worldwide Studios said that Sony was working on the technology for more than three years. Explaining the application of virtual reality in gaming, he had this to say:
"Nothing delivers a feeling of immersion better than VR. VR has been a dream of many gamers since the computer was invented. Many of us at PlayStation have dreamed of VR and what it could mean to the gaming community."
Divulging further details about the Project Morpheus and the technology behind the VR headset, Sony Magic Lab's Richard Marks, the creator of EyeToy camera and PlayStation Move fame, had this to say:
"The thing that makes VR special is really the feeling of being in another place... there's no way to explain it to you that will make sense, but it's that feeling of presence.
"VR is going to be pervasive, and what I mean by that is it's going to be used for all sorts of things you might not think it would be used for." One example Marks gave was a project with NASA and its Jet Propulsion Lab that he had been working on, that will allow gamers to feel like they're on Mars.
Key Development Areas for Success of Project Morpheus
According to The Verge, Marks seems to have identified six key areas of development for the success of Project Morpheus: sight, sound, tracking, control, ease of use, and content. Sony seems to have struck the right chord with clear focus on all these areas.
As Marks reportedly explains, Sony's considerable advancement in optics and imaging technology takes care of Sight, while 3D binaural tech should help presence and immersion.
PlayStation Camera and PlayStation Move should serve as tailor-made solutions for tracking and control, while Sony's revolutionary plug and play experience should promote ease of use.
As for the content, Sony is reportedly working with several major software partners including Epic Games, Crytek, Autodesk, Unity, and more.
Sony's VR project seems to be deeply inspired by the original Kickstarter-funded startup Oculus VR, whose first headset came out in 2012 and followed by an improved Oculus Rift prototype codenamed "Crystal Cove", which was unleashed earlier this year.
Competition in the Virtual Reality market is likely to intensify in coming years with more companies capitalising on the growing demand from gamers. Valve recently revealed plans of developing its own VR technology, while Microsoft is focusing on augmented reality glasses called "Project Fortaleza" which are designed to work with the Xbox One's Kinect.
Though there is no word on the headset's release date, Sony is planning to release SDK for developer testing in the near future.
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