GDC 2014: PlayStation lifts the lid off worst kept secret – virtual reality for PS4

Sony’s VR headset Project Morpheus revealed

In an announcement that shocked no one, Sony finally announced the virtual reality headset it has been secretly working on. Well, semi-secretly.

Going by the codename of Project Morpheus, the device is in development for PS4 and was unveiled by Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida at GDC 2014 today. The headset currently only exists as a prototype, according to Polygon, with no word on when Sony will release it to the public.

It has been rumoured that Sony was working on its own answer to the popular, but still not released, Oculus Rift for some time, with reports of PlayStation’s GDC session – The Future of Innovation – sparking further speculation that a reveal was imminent.

Microsoft is also working on its own VR headset, according to reports by The Wall Street Journal.

As suspected, Sony’s device uses the technology behind PlayStation Move and PlayStation Camera to track players’ movements. A number of prototypes have been worked on since 2010, and now Sony is seeking developer feedback to help define the next step in the project.

Virtual reality is the next innovation from PlayStation that will shape the future of games.

Shuhei Yoshida, Sony Worldwide Studios

Project Morpheus will be demonstrated at GDC this week, with a handful of demos – including a special version of recent chart-topper Thief, CCP’s dogfighting title Eve Valkyrie and two tech demos from Sony.

 “This industry has grown by creating technological advancements for video game players,” Yoshida told GDC attendees. “Advancements that people maybe weren’t expecting or thought was possible. [PlayStation is focused on] pushing the boundary of play [and] it’s this focus that drives how we innovate and create the experiences we deliver to gamers.

“Virtual reality is the next innovation from PlayStation that will shape the future of games.”

Project Morpheus explained

SCEA’s senior director of R&D Richard Marks explained that Morpheus focuses on six areas: sight, sound, tracking, control, ease of use and content – all of which will help Sony establish the device as a mass market product.

For sight, the team is drawing on Sony’s experience with electronics and personal video viewers, while sound will involve Sony-developed 3D audio technology. The object of the latter is to create position-based sounds, such as players footsteps below them or helicopter engines overhead. As gamers move their head, the sounds will change. This will be accomplished by position tracking, which (as explained above) will use PlayStation Move.

Marks admitted that control will be a challenge with “a lot of problems to solve down the road”, but added that the DualShock 4 and the way PlayStation Camera tracks it gives Sony an advantage.

We really want it be easy for people. We want it to be comfortable.

Richard Marks, SCEA R&D

Ease of use is particularly important to Sony, the R&D exec explained: “You’re going to have to be able to go to the store, buy one, plug it in and [have it work]… We really want it be easy for people. We want it to be comfortable.”

Specifically this means PlayStation aims to have the device ready to use out of the box, without the need for drivers or a complicated set-up process.

Finally for content, Marks said Project Morpheus will be used for both games and non-games, with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab already linked to a related project.

SCEA R&D senior software engineer Anton Mikhailov added that Project Morpheus has been designed to be comfortable and reduce motion sickness for users. Players will be able to plug in their own headphones into the unit, and Sony is aiming for a 1080p display with 90 degree-plus field of view.

GDC 2014 – Live! Breaking news and up-to-the-minute developments: HERE

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