We Just Tried Sony's PS4 Virtual Reality Headset. We Like It.

We Just Tried Sony's PS4 Virtual Reality Headset. We Like It.

Yesterday, Sony entered the virtual reality fray by announcing Project Morpheus , a new virtual reality initiative aimed at making a VR headset for the PS4. Today at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Stephen Totilo and I swung by Sony's booth to check it out.

In a private meeting with Sony's Anton Mikhailov and Jeff Stafford, we both tried out a couple of game demos and got a good feel for the headset. Here's what the setup looks like backstage:

We Just Tried Sony's PS4 Virtual Reality Headset. We Like It.

There you can see a full array of PS4 peripherals — a DualShock 4 controller, PlayStation Camera, the Morpheus headset prototype, and the A/V box that will split out the headset's signal to make it mirror to a TV or other screen.

Here are a couple of close-ups of the headset:

We Just Tried Sony's PS4 Virtual Reality Headset. We Like It.

Stephen went first, to play a demo of EVE Valkyrie, an outer-space starship shooter set in the EVE Online universe. The fit of the headset was interesting:

We Just Tried Sony's PS4 Virtual Reality Headset. We Like It.

As you can see, it's designed to put most of the weight on the user's head, and tightens from the plastic connector in the back. The actual eyepiece hangs from a sort of halo headband, and needs to be adjusted flush up against the user's face.

Here's another shot of Stephen using it:

We Just Tried Sony's PS4 Virtual Reality Headset. We Like It.

Video time. In this first video, we get a close look at the Morpheus headset:

In the second video, I try out a demo called The Deep, developed by Sony's London Studio, with the Morpheus on my head and a PS4 controller in my hand:

Playing The Deep does effectively give you the sense that you're actually standing in a shark tank, gradually descending into the murky depths. It's not for the faint of heart, though it might be good for some people (cough Luke Plunkett cough) to confront their fear of sharks. I do wish I could've gotten that damned flare gun to hurt the shark.

After our demo, Stephen and I spoke with Sony head of worldwide studios Shuhei Yoshida and Richard Marks, chief researcher at Sony's Magic Lab. We talked about their plans for the headset and the future of VR on PS4. A few specifics:

  • They gave no price, not even a ballpark for the final version.
  • They described a pretty cool scenario where you'd run a cable out of the headset's A/V box to your TV and see a single-screen version of the VR game on that screen. A second player could then grab a controller and play a game along with the VR player. As an example, Yoshida said that in The Deep, a second player can control the path of a turtle that swims around the diving cage. He said that VR offered a lot of possibilities for asynchronous gaming similar to the Wii U, with several players playing on the TV taking on the VR player. The setup will allow for four controllers, and while the headset currently counts for one of them, Marks said that they're still figuring out whether it will always be that way.
  • They're not distributing advance or prototype headsets for PC indie developers, for now it will be only for developers making games on PS4.
  • Yoshida confirmed that the commercial release will not happen in 2014.
  • Yoshida said that Sony is working on dedicated gaming experiences for Morpheus, indicating that Sony's approach will involve making games that are just for Morpheus and would also explore allowing there to be Morpheus-only modes for non-VR games. They specifically said they don't want to just port PS4 games to Morpheus, for example, a normal PS4 FPS that would also be playable in VR.

We'll have more on Sony's virtual reality headset soon, including more detailed thoughts on how Project Morpheus compares with the new Oculus Rift headset . The bottom line, for now: Video game VR is here and it's no joke, and what Sony's got so far seems promising.

WATCH MORE: Playstation News


Comments

    Seems like the competition are closing in on the Oculus now. I wonder if their quest for lower latency could see them beaten to market.

      It probably won't help the competition too much if they release a product earlier that hasn't quite ironed out latency issues.

    That's sounding... Really promising. Hopefully Sony give it the care and attention it needs, and not just throw it out the door like another eyetoy / move. I'm curious to hear more as the year goes on.
    PC compatibility would go a long way, since not many consumers would want to buy multiple headsets just to use different systems. Having a product positioned to work on both would make a massive market impact, surely.

      Compatibility with PC is a good idea, but more likely would see Xbox doing that then playstation

    Awesome potatoes Kirk!
    I will be awaiting the Sony vs Rift review, and i hope its gonna be a good fight!

    I think we should give SONY some serious credit...

    The Playstation 4, the PS Vita and the Dualshock 4 are all extremely well built pieces of hardware with very innovative new ideas and appear very future proofed. The PS3 was great, just not developer friendly, and so they have stepped back and done something about that with the PS4.

    Something has happened inside SONY's R&D department in the last few years and it's a very positive thing. I say YES to the Morpheus and have no reason to think it won't be great!

    I'm curious if you'll be able to lay down and use the headset without it becoming annoying and uncomfortable

    Last edited 20/03/14 12:07 pm

    With that look, they should have called it the Tron. I love VR, I'm excited for it. I'm really crossing my fingers that it gets some good games... a Matrix one would be awesome(imagine playing normally and then having to jack-in).

    Bandai really needs to port Gundam: Senjou no Kizuna to the PS4 using this to replicate the panoramic screen they use in the arcades.
    Second Option: They re-remake Gundam: Blue Destiny and Rise from the Ashes taking advantage of this headset to bring back the immersiveness of those games.

    Last edited 20/03/14 12:33 pm

    Are the headphones going to be included with the headset? I've been holding off on the Gold's to see what is coming down the pike.

    Man, even Nintendo is getting in on the action now! : http://i.imgur.com/AZxjCwR.jpg

    (from reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/20thku/introducing_the_nintendo_vru/ which in turn is from instagram: http://instagram.com/p/lusUDUhRsq/)

    So how does the screen quality/sharpness/lag/screendoor compare to the new rift V2?

    This is awesome, but I would also love them to focus on adding media server support for ps4 :/

      It's not about 'focus' afaik, its a fairly rudimentary functionality to add.. It's that they don't WANT to.. The idea is to get people streaming, rather than using media servers which have very little legitimate media available, fueling piracy fairly directly.

      Not that I care.. Just their logic afaik.

    I have to say despite wanting a VR headset for consoles so badly that it hurts I see nothing but colossal problems for this.

    First there is everything Mark talked about in his articles, namely the BS waste of space peripherals sony has made so far. Basically they are a useless with no support at all, because they are optional. That in and of itself is a monumental hurdle as we know it will never be a Kinect 2.0.

    The 2nd is what is going to power this thing? Will it work with any game and have the grunt to make that possible (which will beef up its price astronomically, limiting users but still the best option) Or is it going to need specifically made games in which case it will be the Wii U scenario. Only crazy early adopters will buy it without games due too cost but no games will get made because there are not enough sales. The latter also has a deeper problem in that if the ps4 is to power this thing the games themselves will suffer and as a result could look and play decidedly last gen due to lack of resources which would create an entirely new can of worms.

    The 3rd problem is it does't have built in headphones unless i missed something. But it needs to have fantastic audio and it needs to work along side the VR aspect in regards to directional audio a full surround sound experience because.

    The 4th and final problem is it sounds like it will be ps4 only which I can only describe as a huge flaw, nobody wants to buy multiple devices with the same use. They want the universal remote of VR headsets and if this doesn't do it and the Rift goes console they could be in for a world of hurt.

    Outside of all these rather huge potential problems I hope it works and that I can finally have my dream of fantastic quality VR on a games console.

      If you want fantastic audio you wouldn't want to build headphones in, as you would then have to raise the price by a few hundred dollars to be able to possibly provide fantastic audio. Let people just continue using their fantastic headphones that they already own, or if you care and don't have any go do some research and find some.

      As for powering the VR. The rendering process will likely be much the same as it normally is. Just with some visual alterations made in a similar way to how you change a videos aspect ratio. Not very demanding work. Likely they could get this to work with most if not all games. Some games will probably take extra advantage of this and I see the possibility for VR exclusives.

      Also I do see some potential for this to maybe be made to work with a Vita TV or games streamed through Gaikai, though they are less than ideal situations. But for all we know it could possibly work on the PC too. That is seeing as the DS4 has been made to support PCs and Sony probably know they have a hard sell on their hands.

        You missed the ENTIRE POINT for sound. When you are in VR your normal headphones are not going to fit so that makes all but cheap tiny ones unusable.

        A sound system set up from your tv DOESN'T WORK (or headphones if straight up/down). If i look to the left the sound from my tv will be monumentally off, a person coming up behind me will sound like they are coming from the side etc etc. Which is why you need dedicated audio with the VR device so that the sound is synced to the view point you are seeing within the VR not the physical world otherwise you get a huge disconnect between what you see and what you hear. Which has multiple problems most of which is the brain not likely handling it and throwing up all over your nice new VR set :P

        The rest of your post is just ill informed speculation. The device will need sizable grunt to do anything, its not just splitting the 1080 image and bang your done. There is a massive amount of behind the scenes computing going on and it has to be self sufficient otherwise it will nuke the ps4 and not be compatible with anything but specifically designed games.

        Last edited 23/03/14 10:05 am

          Normal headphones are not going to fit because all VR devices are destined to be massive bulky contraptions that cover your whole head? Headphones seem to fit fine with the Oculus and it only looks like they weren't on properly in that video as the person needed to hear while playing. So people will be able to wear their proper high end headphones with this thing if they so choose. I never suggested people use this with a plain old TV's audio, but now that you mention it, I don't see why things couldn't be programmed to make this potentially work with a surround sound system.

          I still do not get why my opinion on required 'grunt' is not accurate... No matter how you look at the the console will still only be rendering 1080p worth of on screen content. All that will likely be done is some warping and stretching of the image that each eye sees so that when it passes through a lens it can be made to look natural and mostly fill your FOV. Please explain how this is such a difficult process that will nuke the PS4... Actually, please provide a link to someone else explaining this if you want to add merit to your argument.

            And that right there is why you are so wrong already. It is not the same image otherwise it wouldn't work.

            VR works by having to separate images being rendered one for each EYE. These are not identical images they are two individuals images from 2 different viewpoints. Basically go close one eye and then the other. That is what is happening, your console/pc renders from the game these two different viewpoints simultaneously, even right now with the less than HD Occulus, it drastically eats into computer performance. Once it reaches HD(by consumer version) if you are playing skyrim on maxed out settings at 1080p then the occulus requires your pc to rending that that image 2 different times effectively doubling the grunt needed or halving the efficiency of your PC.

            There is also the point where to be playable for most people the game NEEDS to be running at a stable 60 FPS at all times unless you want serve motion sickness going on. With this in mind a normal game rendering at 1080p on ps4 or XB1 would have to scale back to 360 generation just to render two separate images at 60 frames.

            So again unless the unit is self contained with some serious computing power it will gimp everything,

            In regards to sound how exactly is your home theater going to know WTF is going on in the VR world? Are you going to plug it into the headset, not possible. What about your console can't it tell it, bzzzzzt not possible it would need a data connection for that and then the game itself would not only have to drive the game and sound but then question every sound byte relative to the VR which would consume an insane amount of power and cause a large lag time.

            No all your points are utterly wrong and show how little you know, any VR needs dedicated sound built in and it needs to be self sufficient in regards to computing power and it will need a great deal of it (In regards to a console at least, a PC is different to some degree for obvious reasons) . If its not done this way the entire thing will failed before it starts, especially for Sony's version because they don't have the cash to bank roll a slow mover

              Thank you for your explanation on the rendering. I can see how that would require a bit of extra grunt, though I am not convinced that it would be something overly drastic, once things are programmed right,

              Though it does seem you completely missed my main point about people maybe wanting so use their own headphones and I do have to disagree with you on the difficulty of getting this working with surround sound... With the visual tracking that this thing has, the console has all the data it would need to tell your speakers where the sound should be coming from... For instance, if you turn around your rear speakers could easily be sent the audio that would normally go to your front speakers or facing left your left front and left rear speakers play the audio that normally goes to your front speakers. Given the console already has the tracking data swapping channels requires nuff all power. Only if they wanted to smooth the transition between speakers over, by gradually adjusting sound levels as you turn, would it require a little power. But even they we're not talking about crazy calculations so it should be nothing that the Ps4's octacore can't handle.

              Also FYI, I am not trying to attack you here man, so please tone down the aggression and just relax a little. I prefer civil conversations over these kinds of things.

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