The last year or so has been really exciting for VR technology and it looks like Sony is eager to keep up with what's shaping up to be the fastest growing trend in gaming. The Japan-based company today announced Project Morpheus, a VR system for its fourth generation PlayStation 4 console.
Morpheus looks quite different to what we’ve seen from VR companies, eschewing the ski-goggle styling of Oculus and bespectacled aesthetic of CastAR for a visor and headband. It utilizes Sony’s PlayStation Camera as well as accelerometer and gyroscope sensors built into Morpheus itself to track head orientation and movement. That way, when your head turns, the virtual world you're seeing turns too. Throw in Sony’s motion-sensing PlayStation Move and 3D audio technology developed by Sony itself (it re-creates stereoscopic sounds in all directions, changing in real-time) and you’ve got yourself a system that offers a fully-immersive experience without using a single piece of third-party equipment. It boasts a 1080p resolution, a 90-degree field of view and compatibility with DUALSHOCK 4, and Sony has been working on it for years.
Like most of the VR solutions we’ve seen as of late, Morpheus isn’t ready for prime time just yet. Sony has been working on this project for more than three years, and the company says it will continue to develop Porject Morpheus for a "future commercial launch." No, nothing more specific than that, unfortunately.
Right now, Sony is trying to drum up excitement amongst developers. The company is currently working on a dedicated SDK, which it promises will be made available once it's completed. The goal is to have the Project Morpheus prototype serve as the first development kit for PS4 developers. Sony will have Morpheus at GDC this week, and the company says attendees will be allowed take the technology for a spin. Demos will include EVE Valkyrie, Thief, The Castle, and The Deep.
In the meantime, the addition of a big name player like Sony to the VR game is pretty exciting, and it must be pretty scary for smaller companies that have been more vocal about their efforts over the last couple of years. While companies like Oculus VR say they hope to sell their solution as cheaply as possible "while still existing as a company," Sony has a lot more money to dump into R&D, engineering, and marketing. Don't forget, we're talking about a company that famously sold the PS3 at a loss for years. That console launched in 2006 and didn't sell at a profit until 2010. Sony could, if Morpheus matches up to the competition, price everyone else out of the market. Of course, that relies on people already owning the PS4/PlayStation Camera/DUALSHOCK 4 combo necessary to operate Project Morpheus, which is in itself a huge investment for budget conscious gamers. We’ll be at GDC ourselves so we’ll take a trip to the Sony booth this week and let you know what we think.