Innovation at PlayStation
Excited about the future of virtual reality? Good news for PS4 owners and anyone still debating about getting a PS4 or Xbox One: Sony unveiled its own VR headset, dubbed Project Morpheus, during a panel at the 2014 Games Developer Conference. While it's not a direct competitor to the Oculus Rift--a VR device that will (someday) be available only for the PC--the Morpheus will allow PS4 owners to become even more immersed in the games they love.
Now that we've had some hands-on time with the device, we can attest to Sony's claims. The brief demos we experienced during GDC were, in a word, awesome. Hungry for more details? Read on.
Morpheus is fairly comfortable
An admission: I was initially skeptical about Sonys VR headset. But now that Ive tried it out for myself, thats no longer the case. I was surprised at how clear it was; usually, I find head-mounted displays to be a bit on the blurry side. That wasnt the case here. When wearing the Morpheus, not only are you able to make plenty of adjustments to make a tight fit, but you can also move the optical blockthe part you stare intoto accommodate for different eye shapes and glasses.
The set was a little heavy (comparable to the weight of the initial Oculus Rift dev kit), and it did push down on my nose more than I wouldve liked. But this was merely a prototype model. I suspect the eventual consumer version will be a more comfortable fit. Overall, I walked away feeling extremely positive about both Sonys Morpheus and VRs future.
The Deep demo showcased VRs immersive capabilities
The first demo I saw, titled The Deep (sorry, no images available), was an excellent display of the types of immersive experiences VR can provide. In it, I was suited up as a deep-sea diver, standing in a cage. When the demo booted up, I looked around to check out my surroundings. Up above, I could see the silhouette of my ship floating atop the ocean. To my left, a giant coral reef stretched out for miles. And below? Dark.
In one of my hands, which I could move in-game by using a DualShock 4 like a motion controller, I had a flare gun to help light up some of the blackness of the ocean as I descended in my cage. Marine creatures swam all arounduntil a massive great white shark came to give me a nice hello by ripping the front of my cage to shreds. Trust me: seeing that on a screen and experiencing it in virtual reality are two totally different things.
The Castle demo was all about world interaction
Where The Deep demo focused on VRs immersive capabilities, my second demo--The Castle--was built around object manipulation. I stood in a medieval courtyard, a mannequin sitting directly in front of me. I did what anyone in my situation would do: I reached my hands out, a Move controller in each, grabbed the dummys arms by squeezing the controllers' triggers, and made it dance like a puppet. Thats when I noticed swords had been spawned into the world next to me.
I grabbed one with each hand. Initially, I was timid about poking the target dummy--after all, wed just danced together. But after a few seconds, I started slashing at it, hacking off its limbs. Then I grabbed a crossbow, held it up in front of my face to use its targeting reticles, and shot away at some nearby targets. I was genuinely shocked at how accurate it was. Just as I finished landing yet another bullseye, a huge dragon came crashing down into the yard in front of me. Naturally, it ate me. But seeing it there was a little creepy; the sense of scale virtual reality provides is something that must be experienced to believe.
For more information on Project Morpheus, read on.
Morpheus will have seamless integration with the PS Camera, PS Move, and PS4
While Morpheus is a slick-looking device you wear over your dome, it only tracks the movement of your head. It can tell when youre looking from side to side, or up and down--just like other Virtual Reality headsets on the market. What it can't do, however, is track the movement of the rest of your body. Thats where Sonys PS Move and Camera come in.
Morpheus itself will give you the ability to look around and stuff, but youll have to use these devices to have a full virtual reality experience. Dont own a Move or Camera yet? Theres a good chance a bundle will be coming once Morpheus is ready for market.
Its still just in its prototyping stage
This is a good thing. Sony's not rushing this thing out the door, and is cognizant of the dangers that would come with doing so. The GDC showing was an unveiling, not an invitation to purchase, and that's good news for VR supporters.
Its been in development for more than three years
Thankfully, it has come a long way since then. While its earliest iterations looked like that helmet the Ghostbusters put on the Keymaster, the Morpheus shown off at the show is extremely sleek. It's obvious that this thing has been in the works for a while--and that it still has some time to go.
People can watch what youre seeing on a TV
Sonys representatives said this could provide for some interesting asynchronous gameplay scenarios. Perhaps youre playing as a hunter chasing monsters played by your friends--they can see your screen, but you cant see what they have going on. Pretty exciting stuff.
Tech spec dump!
Finally, it supports custom headphones, as Morpheus features a 3.5mm headphone jack. As of now, the dev kit must be connected to the PS4 via a 5-meter wire, though Sony says its researching the possibility of a wireless retail unit.
Let me show you
Morpheus definitely exceeded our expectations so far, and we're definitely happy to see that Sony is entering into the VR arena. While the Oculus Rift is a high-quality piece of hardware--and might end up being the better of the two when all is said and done--having Sony on board the VR train means that more people will pay attention, and the more people involved, the better.