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Sony’s PlayStation 4 Virtual Reality Headset Debuts at GDC 2014

Sony HeadsetLast week at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, Sony unveiled a prototype of “Project Morpheus,” their virtual reality solution for the PlayStation 4 and the first modern VR device for video game consoles.

Similar to the Oculus Rift, Project Morpheus is a head-mounted 3D display that seeks to turn video games into virtual reality. Unlike the Oculus Rift, which caters to those gaming on personal computers, Project Morpheus promises to bring unprecedented immersive sensory experiences to the console, specifically the PlayStation 4.

The Project Morpheus prototype at GDC featured a head-mounted closed display with HDMI and USB inputs. The display on the device is a 5-inch 1080p LCD screen. The headset allows for a 90-degree field of view and positional head tracking, allowing players to control their in-game view with their head rather than an analog stick. In the audio department, Sony has developed true spatial sound using binaural 3D audio for an intensely personal surround sound experience. The device supports custom headphones that plug directly into the device.

The PlayStation Move-esque sensors on the device allow it to work in conjunction with the PlayStation Camera to offer full-body tracking, a feature not seen in the Oculus Rift.

In addition to the camera, players can also use a DualShock Controller or Playstation Move to control games.

GDC attendees were able to try out Project Morpheus for themselves at the event. One of the technical demos put the player in a virtual underwater shark cage. The PlayStation Camera tracked the player’s body movement. Players could bend their knees and lower themselves in real life and the same thing would happen in game. Looking around the oceanic environment used the device’s head tracking. The player’s vision of the surrounding GDC crowd was completely cut off by the device’s closed display, so even their peripheral vision was met with the in-game environment. A shark would eventually attack the cage, and the player would have to fend it off with a measly flare gun. The shark eventually would tear off one of the cage’s walls, ending the demo.

Project Morpheus has been in development for over three years. Sony unveiled the prototype at GDC in hopes of attracting developers to create games for the machine. Sony is already working with game developers such as Epic Games and Crytek, with hopefully more to come. The prototype at GDC also acted as a development kit.

Sony is the first of the big three video game console companies to step aboard the virtual reality train with Project Morpheus. It remains to be seen if Nintendo or Microsoft will follow suit, but if these kinds of immersive video game experiences take off, Sony will have a distinct advantage in the console race.

By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra

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