Virtual Reality Is The Next Innovation: How PS4’s Project Morpheus Shapes The Future

Sony’s Virtual Reality headset reveal was a bit strange, a bit brave, and a bit incredible. Sony’s “next innovation” – a virtual reality headset for the PS4 by the name of Project Morpheus came almost from nowhere in a talk at GDC. No stream, but an Apple-esque reveal behind closed doors. We’ve heard rumblings of this for years, but didn’t expect such a final looking prototype – and it is still a prototype – this soon.

According to The Verge, who liveblogged the event, Yoshida showed a slide titled Virtual Reality before stating: “VR has been a dream of many gamers since the computer was invented. Many of us at PlayStation have dreamed of VR and what it could mean to the gaming community.”

This is something that they’ve clearly been experimenting with since PlayStation Move, taping some familiar looking orbs to their own 3D viewer headsets to get started. It sounds like a simple and neat solution, and something genuinely exciting. While it didn’t provide the immersion they wanted, it was a good beginning for their headset which they could refine over several years.

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And now, that headset has been revealed as Project Morpheus, a VR system for use with the PS4. It’s a really sleek looking piece of equipment, with lights shining brightly for tracking by the PS Camera. This is part of why you’ve got that lightbar on the PS4. It’s definitely a prototype, but according to Yoshida, it’s “a good representation of how PlayStation will deliver VR.”

The reason they’ve unveiled it at GDC is that they’re still looking for developer feedback and for people to get on board. Yoshida also mentioned Oculus’ and Valve’s own systems, saying that it “shows how all of us as an industry can rally around a new medium like VR to push gaming forward.”

They’re even teaming up with NASA, which should make people with PS4s at home feel as though they’re with them when they discover new places. It sounds amazing, and will link in with Curiosity on Mars. We’re going to explore Mars. Or perhaps even the moon – NASA’s own Project Morpheus is a vertical landing test vehicle.

Richard Marks, from Sony’s Magic Lab, even teases that VR will be used for things you won’t expect. Who knows what that could mean exactly, but the NASA connection could provide a hint. It perhaps means that Sony are ready to move beyond games. Games have already been done by the name-checked Oculus, but what Sony’s wider plans are is still a mystery.

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Sight, sound, tracking, control, ease of use, content. These are the main focuses when developing this VR kit.

Optics are key for sight, and they’ll be merging this with real world similarities in the sound to create the best experience possible. With the PS4’s enhanced graphical prowess, this seems doable. Beyond that, it’s all about the gameplay functionality – which the PS4 is already pushing with the DualShock 4’s inputs.

But it’s really PlayStation Move and the PS Camera which provide the basis for the tracking here. “Interaction is what makes games games. PS Move is already a really good VR controller,” said Richard Marks, continuing, “we’re really happy with our positioning in control here.” As for ease of use, you’ll be able to practically plug and play, one of their primary aims alongside comfort.

But content plays a huge part too. They have partners already, including game companies such a Crytek and Epic Games, engine creators with Havok and Unity, and then even Autodesk and software companies beyond that. They’re at a place where they can afford to make these connections, and what strong connections they are.

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This is a new medium. It’s something still in its infancy, but their focus is on giving you the feeling of presence within games rather than literal design. Some game designs just won’t work, and Sony are planning to work around that in order to create the best experience. It’s all about framerate, calibration, rendering and 3D audio here, to increase the sense of immersion within the game. Everything has to be engineered to trick the brain into believing what it is seeing, which means that VR has to cater to your other sense as well.

Something that comes to mind is the fact that VR is most obviously applicable to first person games. These have expanded from shooter games into more and more genres recently, with some Oculus games already showing a brilliant sense of presence. We’ll still see third person or other views, but creating these with sense of presence will be a challenge – like an out-of-body experience. It will be an interesting thing that I’m sure we’ll see tackled in many ways over the next few years.

Project Morpheus feels like a culmination of everything Sony have been experimenting with through the last generation. PlayStation Move, 3D visuals, their head-mounted viewers and beyond. To bring these together in such a well-realised manner is extremely impressive, and truly feels like a good move for Sony.

And the name? It’s derived from the same place as the character in The Matrix, since Morpheus is the God of dreams and the headset presents the prospect of a dream-like reality. 1080p, 90 degree field of view, 60fps and a whole lot more in terms of immersion. This is ultimately the future of play, and I can’t wait to see where it takes us next.

Images source: Geoff Keighley

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40 Comments

  1. Megaton. Looks absolutely amazing.

    Your move MS.

  2. Ah can’t wait to see how this develops.
    Guess it’s gonna cost a penny or two though, I’d think somewhere around the €400-€500 minimum :0

  3. Interesting to see how they’ve been building towards it with different parts of the PlayStation experience merged together.

  4. Another vr gimmick that will fail like the rest of the vr gimmicks. Sony could add it to the list of failed formats that they have

    • What failed vr gimmicks? None in the modern era with decent tracking and high resolution small screens. I agree it has maybe a 50/50 chance of success though.

      What I would like it to be is usable as a standalone 1080p headset with 5.1 surround (at least, 7.1 even better) for normal non-vr games, then it would be a more attractive buy.

      • I see what he’s saying. Vita has vr capabilities using the camera and the vr cards but it isn’t used because it’s shit.
        Move flopped big time.
        Just 2 examples, neither strictly vr in these terms but still, they show they don’t follow ideas through.

      • Vita isn’t VR – it’s Augmented Reality, a completely different side to it, more akin to things like the original eye toy games. AR is much closer to Playroom, games like Little Deviants and the AR card games you mention, and Kinect.

    • So you would rather have stagnation? Or a company willing to invest and take a risk?

      I for one would rather have a Sony that invested in 3D tech, VR and game streaming, a Microsoft that invested in Body tracking and voice control and a Nintendo that invested in low latency motion controls and second screens than ones that didn’t. Not every investment is returned in success, but if you only ever invested in 100% guaranteed foreseen successes, you’d be waiting a long time for progress.

      • As long as there’s a control pad with sticks & buttons I’m fine.

  5. Also, at one point, I thought the first picture was what it would look like…

    • That’s the limited edition Dalek version which comes bundled with the new Doctor Who and the Timesprout collectors edition.

  6. I was an early adopter of move, excited for its potential. I never ended up using it because Sony released it then forgot about it, it never got developed for.
    I won’t make the same mistake here, certainly won’t be buying it until a couple of years after release and only if it’s getting proper support. I can see this flopping.

    • I really want to be an early adopter of this but I have been stung so many times by sony. Also the move strip on the headset doesn’t seem ideal, you won’t be able to look behind you or anywhere were the PSeye can’t see you. :/

      • After trying Move in store, I dropped £250+ on wands, nunchucks and games. It’s a purchase I regret way more than my Wii U.

        I cannot even remember them releasing a game that needed a nunchuck by the time I cut my losses and sold the lot to CEX for under £100.

    • Same here. I thought move was a brilliant device but there were hardly any games using it. If devs didn’t make games for a £40 device I can’t see them doing them for this.

    • I am with you on this. I have a draw of move stuff that just sits there, a utter waste of money and space.

  7. Backwards compatibility with Uncharted 2 and they have a day one sale. “Just climb the ladder again Chloe, make sure it is sturdy for me”.

    On a serious note the potential is huge. No multi screen set ups and look wherever when playing, Dead Space VR is a must.
    As mentioned though – it will need massive support and may be better off releasing with the next console in the box Kinect / Wii Pad style

    • The only thing they need to sell this, and the same goes for Oculus Rift on the PC, is either Fallout 4 or Elder Scrolls 6 to support it.

      • Really? Nobody thinking about Gran Turismo 7 VR? I think the biggest pull for this will be games where you sit in a cockpit, like racing/flight/space games.

      • GT7? That’s a given, as with the cockpit games, but that’s more simulation which already work significantly in the realm of trying to put you there – VR clearly makes that more of an, ahem, reality.

        But first person Skyrim/Fallout sequel or any other game where immersion in a game world is key, get VR support = win.

      • There’s an interesting article over on GTPlanet regarding the VR headset reveal with Sony president Suhei Yoshida ( Is on Polyphony Digital’s Board of directors also), where he states the most obvious and best applications for the new shiny would be racing games.
        There’s also mention by an industry insider that Drive Club and GT7 are being designed to make use of it.
        As you say, anything cockpit based would be obvious choices and ideal candidates.

  8. This is the future about as much as 3d gaming, betamax, umd’s, and minidiscs were. It looks like a fancy speaker and one of those foot measuring devices they had at Clarks when I was a kid.

    • Oi I loved my minidiscs, I was gutted when it didn’t take off.

      • Yip I thought my minidisk player was the bees knees, so disappointed when it didn’t take off.

      • Clearly I am not the biggest fan if I can’t even spell it.

      • Ah minidisc was so much better than those horrendous discmans CD playing walkmans! loved my minidisc recorder as well :(

  9. Lets hope it doesn’t end up like Move, a lonely and pointless addition to the console. It looks amazing and I really hope this takes off, but without support, it wont.

  10. I hope for one thing that if this is to work that they do it right, it needs to be backed but not at the expense of normal gamers, I will not being buying this but I sure as hell had better not be short changed on my other games while this gets all the developers time and effort.

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