By Spencer and Ishaan . March 18, 2014 . 6:05pm
“Virtual reality is the next innovation from PlayStation,” Sony’s head of Worldwide Studios, Shuhei Yoshida, said during a panel at GDC today.
Yoshida went on to show off a build of God of War III that had been modified to work with a first-person view using a VR headset that was handmade by Sony’s Santa Monica studio, the developers of God of War. The headset was a prototype built using an HMz Sony headset with a PlayStation Move controller attached to it for head tracking, and the brief demo showed Kratos tearing someone apart from a first-person camera perspective.
Prototyping continued, and as of 2012, Sony had come up with the headset design pictured above.
As of 2014, Sony have come up with “Project Morpheus” for PlayStation 4, Yoshida said. This is another prototype design and is pictured above. Yoshida stated that Sony have been working on this for three years now, but that it is not a final representation of how PlayStation will deliver VR.
However, Yoshida said that the device is playable at GDC, and that attendees will be able to try it out, as Sony are looking to gather feedback.
Following Yoshida’s presentation, Richard Marks from Sony Computer Entertainment America R&D stepped up. Marks had worked with NASA and briefly talked about a Mars demo that was developed using VR, in collaboration with Wwise and Unity.
Sight, sound tracking, control, ease of use, and content are the six elements Sony needs to tackle for VR, Marks said. Or rather, to “achieve presence,” as he put it. Marks mentioned that the headset has a light on it, so that it can be tracked by the camera the same way the controller can.
Sony are currently working on getting tools to developers like Crytek, Unity, Silicon Studio, Epic Games, Criware and Wwise, to facilitate the development of VR content.
Sony’s Anton Mikhlov was up next. Mikhlov helped design the PlayStation Move controller and talked about designing games using virtual reality. He touched upon points like motion sickness, arm positioning problems and how to achieve good presence in a virtual reality environment. In this regard, Mikhlov listed the following tips:
He then went on to talk about contact points and haptic feedback, citing driving games as an example. Not just a wheel, but pedals and even the seat are important to help increase presence, Mikhlov said. Meanwhile, in shooting games, having a gun attachment peripheral would help increase presence. The takeaway was to match your controller to what your VR avatar would use in the game.
For online multiplayer games, Mikhlov said, VR could be used to convey body language, due to head tracking. Beyond games, virtual reality could be used for virtual tourism and other interactive media. However, developers must be careful while developing using VR, Mikhlov cautioned. Presence amplifies emotion, he said, and VR can create a sense of vertigo, claustrophobia or even fear of the dark.
Mikhlov then talked about the development kit for the prototype headset. The devkit has a processing unit that streams what’s on the headset onto a screen. He pointed out that people can wear the headset with glasses. It supports 1080p and a 90+ degree field of view with 15 mm eye relief.
The headset has true spatial sound and binaural audio, Mikhlov stated. It renders sound the same way visuals are rendered, and the ergonomics are highly adjustable, with support for custom headphones. Most of the weight of the headset is placed on the head to make it more comfortable. Some of the VR demos that will be playable at GDC include an EVE: Valkyrie demo, and a Thief demo developed by Square Enix, with a section of the game in VR.
Following Mikhlov’s presentation, a Q&A session was held. Currently, the headset is wired (5 meters) and is not cross-platform with the Oculus Rift, as no APIs have been developed for this. Sony would not discuss whether or not the headset would work with PCs or with mobile devices, but did say that a PlayStation 4 can use one VR helmet.