Sony officially revealed its PS4 virtual reality headset, codenamed Project Morpheus, during a industry presentation late on Tuesday.
Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida brought an end to months of rumours by taking stage at the Games Developers Conference to showcase the device.
"Virtual reality is the next innovation from PlayStation that may well shape the future of games," he said, standing next to a prototype covered by a sheet that, later, he would pull off to reveal to the world.
Sony aired short video clips of a prototype version of the headset - which appeared to consist of Sony's current HMZ head mounted display with a Move controller attached to the side - being used to play a first-person version of God of War 3. The corporation also showed a video of downloadable title Datura being tested with the device.
Sony has worked on the VR headset for three years, said Yoshida, as he unveiled the Project Morpheus unit in its current form.
"This is by no means the final unit", he added.
CVG revealed the existence of the virtual reality headset in September.
Project Morpheus tech specs
The Project Morpheus tech specs in the current dev kit are as follows:
- LCD Display:
- LCD panel size: 5 inches
- Panel Resolution: 1920×RGB×1080 (960×RGB×1080 per eye)
- 1000Hz head tracking
- Field of View: 90 degrees
- Sensors: Accelerometer, Gyroscope
- Connection interface: HDMI + USB
- 3D audio support
- 'Social Screen feature' mirrors experience onto TV (Allows for unique asymmetric gameplay)
- 3 meter working volume
- Supports 'forward prediction'
- DualShock 4 and PS Move compatible
- Highly adjustable unit
- Direct on-board audio jack for headphones
- No weight placed on nose or cheeks
Four demos will be playable at the Games Developers Conference on Wednesday. They include:
- The Deep, Sony London Studio (deep sea diving sim)
- The Castle Demo, PlayStation R&D, (object interaction, swordplay)
- Eve Valkyrie, CCP
- Thief, Square Enix (a special build specifically for VR)
PlayStation America senior software engineer Anton Mikhailov declined to comment on 'final retail' tech specs during a Q&A at the presentation.
Yoshida claimed that Morpheus will seamlessly integrate with the PS4 Move controllers. The unit also can mirror its display on a TV, allowing others to spectate gameplay. Via this functionality, Mikhailov detailed the possibility for developers to create multiplayer games that will have players passing the headset from one person to another - a concept that's somewhat similar to multiplayer mechanics in some Wii U games using its GamePad controller.
Only a single VR headset will be connectible to a PS4 console at a time.
"The Project Morpheus unit contains hardware that will allow it to mirror its display on a TV, allowing others to spectate gameplay"
Sony says it has also developed new sound technology specifically for Morpheus, which allows the user to hear which direction sounds are coming from - including above and below them.
"Morpheus adopts 3D audio technology uniquely developed by SCE," a Sony press release stated.
"In addition to sounds coming from front, behind, left and right, Morpheus recreates stereoscopic sounds heard from below and above the players, such as footsteps climbing up stairs below them, or engine noises of helicopters flying overhead."
PlayStation America R&D director Richard Marks hinted that the PS4 camera was especially designed for VR head tracking.
"The PlayStation Camera has stereo cameras, almost as if it was designed for VR," he joked.
The camera will help accurately track head motion with Morpheus, in much the same way it tracks the Lightbar on the top surface of the DualShock 4 controller.
"We want to make PlayStation the best place for VR," said Marks, before confirming several companies and game engine vendors Sony is working with to foster VR content, including Unity, Havok, Epic Games, Crytek and Silicon Studio.
"This is like the wild west right now. There's no killer genre you have to support. How often do you get to start a new media?" Marks asks.
Marks also offered insights into Sony's outlook for VR tech. He shared visions of how VR will be used not just for gaming but for other parts of everyday life. Users will, for example, be able to preview a hotel virtually before booking a room, or engage in virtual tourism by recreating the experience of a real environments in stereoscopic 3D.
"PlayStation America R&D director Richard Marks hinted that the PS4 camera was especially designed for VR head tracking"
Later in the presentation, Mikhailov discussed the unique challenges of developing games for virtual reality. Players' sense of presence, he said, is critical.
"If you don't feature presence, it's not clear why people aren't playing the game on a screen," Mikhailov said.
Not all VR games need to be first-person either, he added. Third-person games can work better to let people observe all content from a set perspective, he went on to explain.
Virtual tourism and other interactive media are other major avenues for VR, but 'games are best', added Mikhailov, but in later questioning declined to discuss the use of Morpheus with anything other than PS4.
Release date and pricing were also left undisclosed, with Mikhailov only willing to say that it would be released "as soon as possible and for as low as possible".
Sony's official press release clarifies: "SCE will continue development of Morpheus looking towards a future commercial launch".
"We're looking forward to its continued development and the games that will be created as development kits get into the hands of content creators," Yoshida added.
Sony also claimed that "inertial sensors" built into the head-mounted unit, combined with the PlayStation Camera, will accurately track head orientation and movement.
The Morpheus dedicated software development kit is currently in development and will become available "when ready", the corporation added.
Additional reporting: Rob Crossley