First it was EA this year, now it’s Sony PlayStation. The company will be spearheading a virtual reality initiative with its latest Game Designers Conference 2014 announcement: Project Morpheus (via Gamasutra).
Just like the Oculus Rift, Project Morpheus is a sleek-looking black-and-white virtual reality headset for the PlayStation 4 that will bring VR-compatible games and software onto the device. At least this version of the headset may be closer to the real thing, despite PlayStation stating that it was a prototype.
During Sony PlayStation’s GDC presentation called ‘Driving The Future of Innovation‘, Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida said that the company is focused on pushing the boundaries of play and that this focus drives how the company innovates and creates the experiences it delivers to its users.
“The industry has grown by creating technological advancements for video game players,” he said during the talk, “Advancements that people maybe weren’t expecting or thought was possible. Virtual reality is the next innovation from PlayStation that will [shape] the future of games.”
The presentation also showcased Sony’s past efforts in perfecting virtual reality technology.
Yoshida said that the headset will enhance the PlayStation 4’s library and gaming future, with seamless integration with the PlayStation Camera and PlayStation Move. “We will continue to improve on this prototype by gathering feedback from developers. That’s why we unveiled it at GDC.”
The device will also use Sony-developed 3D audio technology that recreates positional sound like footsteps from different areas and engine noises of overhead helicopters. The company is recreating a realistic audio environment that will change depending on a player’s head orientation.
According to SCE America’s Senior Director of Research and Development Richard Marks, Sony will market the device for consumers by focusing on sight, sound, tracking, control, ease of use and content. “You’re going to have to be able to go to the store, buy one, plug it in and [have it work]”, he said, “We really want it to be easy for people [to pick up and play]. We want it to be comfortable [to wear].”
SCEA Research and Development Senior Software Engineer Anton Mikhailov added during the conference that the device’s killer app is “presence” (the illusion of it, anyway). The company will have to maintain this killer app by keeping latency low, framerates high, calibration in tip-top shape and keep image renders clean, with 3D audio sealing the deal.
The prototype will be available for testing on the GDC 2014 show floor at Sony’s booth. Attendees and developers will be playing the following titles: an ocean-based action game called The Deep, a medieval action title called The Castle, CCP Games’ space flight simulator EVE: Valkyrie that was previously shown at last year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, and a modified version of first-person stealth action title Thief. So if you’re at the show floor in San Francisco, now’s the time to jump in to Sony’s VR initiative.
Of course, the bigger question is the device’s price and release date: two important things when you want to push your product to the masses. Still, the future is looking bright for gamers and tech-heads as VR is slowly turning into a (hopefully affordable) mass market trend.