What The Head Of PlayStation VR Thinks Will Make Or Break Virtual Reality

The man at the helm of PlayStation’s virtual reality efforts believes no one game will convince you to buy Sony’s virtual reality headset.

What’s that?

“Presence” is the feeling of being transported somewhere else and actually being there — present, if you will.

“Presence is the killer app,” he says.

Put another way: PlayStation VR doesn’t have a “killer app.” That’s the term applied to a particular piece of software so awesome that it can sell the hardware necessary to run it. And Richard Marks, the head of PlayStation’s R&D department (dubbed “Magic Lab”), thinks PlayStation VR doesn’t need one.

On Nintendo 64 it was “Super Mario 64.” On PlayStation 2 it was “Grand Theft Auto III.”

But Marks thinks virtual reality is a totally different beast — that any game capable of giving someone that unique feeling of presence only that only virtual reality can provide will convince them of its merit.

Marks broke down the components of creating that sense of presence into five categories:

- Static image quality: The fidelity of the images on the screen. Whether or not there is a prominent “screen door effect,” a term which describes whether or not you can see individual pixels. - Head tracking: The ability of the screen to dynamically change what you’re seeing as you move your head in different directions. A headset’s failure to do this at a high level of fidelity can cause disorientation and nausea. - Hand/body awareness: The ability of the headset to make it feel like your body occupies virtual space. For example, when you look down, you see your character’s hands, and when people step closer to you, they accurately change in size. - Environmental response: The world around you stays constant even as you move through it. If you leave an object on a table, turn away, and then turn back, it will still be there. - Social: Other people experience the game and the virtual space, too. Through discussing it, it becomes more real to the both of you.

One thing’s for sure: unless people can actually try out VR for themselves, they’re going to have a hard time justifying the cost.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.


    I tellya, those VR trailers on the PSN store are a pretty good start. That stuff looked neat.

    “screen door effect,” a term which describes whether or not you can see individual pixels.Nitpicking, but SDE is when you can see the space between the pixels. Pixel density and SDE are independent of each other, either can be high with the other low, or both high or both low.

      Interesting they mentioned SDE, given that out of the three major headsets the PRVR will suffer from this the most!

        Will it? I can't actually recall clearly at the moment but I feel like RGB is supposed to be a bit better for SDE than pentile displays. Could very well be mixing information though.

          The difference in display types could help, but from what we've seen the PSVR has a 1920x1080 screen, while the Vive and Rift have a 2160x1200 (1080x1200 per eye) display.

            But as I just said in the first post, the resolution is independent of the SDE :P If the PSVR panels have zero empty space between pixels then it could have none at all.

            Actually do we know anything about its FOV yet? That's another factor too, how far those pixels are spread across your view. While the Rift has a slightly smaller panel than the Vive, and has a slightly higher angular pixel density too thanks in part to its slightly smaller FOV.

            Gooky has it right. The resolution has nothing to do with the SDE. It's all about the gaps between the pixels.

            The term is called the display "Pixel Fill Factor". Not to be confused with the GPU pixel fill rate, which has a confusingly similar name. The fill factor is the percentage of display area that emits light. A high fill factor, and the screen door disappears.

            The PSVR has a high pixel fill factor, and hence actually has less of an SDE than the Vive and Rift.

            Last edited 09/05/16 8:42 pm

              Happy to be proven wrong - particularly as PSVR is the one I'm more likely to actually purchase. Guess I took it from my experiene with a DK2 where the SDE was particularly noticeable, and assumed the PSVR would be the same.

                No probs. If it helps to hear from first-hand experience, my brother is a graphics programmer, and tried the PSVR at the recent GDC. He was quite impressed with it, and said if you look really really hard, you can see super tiny black dots that must be on pixel corners.

                Whereas when he tried the Vive, he said the SDE was fairly obvious.

        I've tried all three, and the Sony was the only one that I didn't notice SDE on.

    This would be the cross-road.

    Games like other media are not designed to envelop a person, like literally. You can make binge jokes about Netflix/etc all you want but the prospect about being immersed in conventional entertainment is always something you do for portions at a time.

    This sounds like Sony understands it's going to be marketing this to a niche audience of a niche audience.

    Last edited 09/05/16 10:48 am

      I wouldnt call 90% of my IRL friends wanting VR "niche"

      it is wanted

        I just googled ‘IRL’… because I don’t know what it is…. because it’s a niche.

        I went to a BBQ last weekend with about 15 people (all slightly nerdy “niche” types) of which 10 would have been excited for VR, but if I went through all the other social groups I hang out with (work, a couple of sporting clubs, family, broader circle of friends) I think the percentage of people likely to be interested in, purchase and then play VR regularly would be extremely small.

        Precisely for the reason @leigh suggested too- most people are too busy to be able to immerse themselves into a game to the extent that they can’t see or hear the world around them. That’s assuming that VR actually delivers the kind of long-lasting gaming experience that a multi-hour session with traditional game will.

        I can’t see myself wanting to unwind at the end of a day’s work standing in the lounge room with a hot headset on my face while my missus wanders trying to ignore how stupid I look. I can’t see myself regularly finding time (or will) for anything more than a 45min session more than once a week.

        I think it’ll end up like paintball or any other kind of cool niche hobby. You put time aside for an hour or two on the weekend and play for a bit, but it’s not something that’ll be feasible for most adults to do every day, even if it’s good enough that you’d want too.

          man you are deluded over the word niche

            Great post.

              niche could mean 5-10-20 million people

                Do you have a point?
                It’s still not a large portion of even the gaming market.

                As it stands, with the requirement of a headset that blocks your vision and hearing, the market of people who’ll actually be able to play the thing the way even semi-serious gamers do (the ones who want a killer app and not a Wii Bowling style tech-demo/ diversion) as a form of regular, casual entertainment are a niche within a niche.

                When Leigh says it’s a crossroads he/she is right. This is the point where VR has to move from 15 minutes of awesome tech demo into people’s homes and the reality is that even within the market of people that play games, it’s just not a feasible form of casual entertainment in its current form.

                Very few people who share accommodation with anyone more involved than a roommate will be able to play regularly.
                You can just about rule out anyone with kids.
                Most people who work standing up all day won’t want to come home and stand up to play (and you DO get a sore neck looking around sitting).
                Most people who work in offices do not want to get home and strap a hot screen to their faces.

                You see this market shrinking? I’m sure it looks amazing and I don’t doubt that lots of people with make snap purchases the first time they use it, but I think the reality will be that the market stagnates quickly when people realise that they don’t use it for much more than showing people how cool it is.

                I don’t doubt for a second that lots of people WANT VR, I want it too, but I think reality is going to get in its way for now at least.

          Agree with you on this one @foggy. I'm about to start the process of getting a home loan. The wife isn't too far off contemplating kids. VR is no where near my top 10 of anything. This exact scenario can be replicated across all of my friends. Not including those already with kids and houses. And then, they couldn't afford VR anyway! Life man... Life. Gets in the way of down time and all those fun activities we loved as kids and teens. @bluxy may still be in those glorious years after high school and not quite full time adult!

          Last edited 09/05/16 3:01 pm

            man kids and a mortgage is so restricting I wouldn't even consider it... have fun in the next 20 years!

            im 33 with no appendages so I am free

              I'm sure a lot of it will not be fun. But in the end it will be worth it! Well at least my folks seem like they enjoyed it! I'll definitely be picking up some VR in one form or another and giving it a crack though.

    well it will take about 3 generations then to achieve full presence, but at least when you go to indonesia or India in VR you cant smell anything

    by 3rd gen we will have less pixelation and longer view distance

    also video needs to catch up one 360 video needs to be about 16-32k resolution to keep up with the HMDs getting better

      i agree. I think you'd have to be pretty keen to jump on first gen.

    CTRL+F "porn" and nothing. You lose this one Dick Marks.

      I think the Dead or Alive game is going to be the closest they get to that on PS-VR.

        The PS4 has a web browser, so it will happen.

          There are a bunch of missing features in the web browser at the moment (e.g. file upload). They'd need to extend the web browser further to make it useful for VR.

          For one thing, the console would need to expose the motion tracking data to the web page, and let the page render in a way that will display correctly in VR (i.e. you don't want the console to be projecting the web page as a big rectangle in VR space, theatre style).

          Lastly, the web browser would need to perform well enough for script to be able to reproject a 360° video so it displays correctly in real time at a reasonable frame rate.

          I wouldn't be surprised if the YouTube app gets an update to display 360° videos, but that's not going to help much either.

            Stop, you're ruining it!

    I have a hard time justifying the $1000+ cost of the Vive and Rift, especially as you need to pay extra for a decent rig on top of that, but $550 for a scaled down (compared to the other two) experience is a lot more palatable to me so I'm willing to take the risk that VR could fail for the lower amount of money (especially as I already have the move controllers and the camera).

    Although maybe I have been hardened against awesome potential being squandered, I do own every Nintendo console...

    i recently acquired the samsung gear VR when i upgraded my phone as part of the recent offer. After playing around with the "worst" one on the market (ex cardboard), I honestly cant wait to see what playstation dishes out. I am super keen to see it. Also if you havent had the chance to try out the gear VR I would recommend 9/10 conning a friend into getting it so you can try it

    Last edited 09/05/16 12:45 pm

    I'll just keep using the Vive with my kids then while Foggy is busy making up more theories.

    What will break VR? Walled gardens and hardware exclusiveness.

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