It’s been a long time coming, but the battle over virtual reality has finally begun. In one corner, there’s the original competitor, the Oculus Rift, which leveraged a record-setting Kickstarter campaign into a $2 billion buyout. Not to be outdone, Valve and HTC announced the Vive just days before the 2015 Games Developer Conference. Boasting two 1200 by 1800 screens, a 90Hz refresh rate, optional location tracking towers, and the power of Steam’s massive audience, the Vive is poised to be the Oculus’ biggest threat. According to Valve, the Vive will also be out this year; given that the Oculus Rift still doesn’t have an official release date, that’s quite a coup.
But the fight’s not over yet. Sony also has a virtual reality headset on the horizon. Dubbed Project Morpheus, Sony’s VR solution uses the power of the PlayStation 4 console, as well as pre-existing accessories like the PlayStation Move and PlayStation Camera. If Sony plays their cards right, Project Morpheus could sneak away with a surprise victory in the VR arms race, especially if the company’s latest figures prove accurate.
In a presentation at GDC 2015, Sony unveiled updated Project Morpheus’ latest specs, and the device – which was already impressive – just sounds better and better. The new Morpheus headset now boasts a 5.7″ OLED display (the original display was only 5″), with what Sony calls a “1920 x RGB x 1020” resolution; each pixel is actually made up of three subpixels, one each for the colors red, blue, and green.
Additionally, Sony’s cut the Morpheus’s latency in half from 36 to 18 milliseconds, and claims that the device can handle up to 120 frames per second, with technology that’ll upscale images at lower frame rates. Given that two of the biggest sources of so-called “virtual reality sickness” are bad latency and choppy animation, that’s a huge deal. The improved headset also features three additional head-tracking LEDs, bringing the total to nine.
According to SCE Worldwide President Shuhei Yoshida, the new Morpheus is also easier to put on and take off, thanks to a new headband design and a quick-release button. The display can be removed separately from the headband, while the new support system puts the weight on the top of gamers’ heads, relieving the pressure on their faces.
Best of all, the Morpheus isn’t all that far away. Yoshida says the headset should be out within the next year or so, in “the first half of 2016.” More information will be revealed at E3 2015.
If these claims check out, the Morpheus will be an impressive piece of hardware, although the numbers mean nothing if the Morpheus doesn’t have any software to support it. While there are a number of demos, only a handful of games have confirmed Morpheus support (most notably, the summer’s upcoming horror title Until Dawn). Further, Sony hasn’t said how much the Morpheus will actually cost. While the headset might be reasonably priced, with all the extra accessories – the Move, the Camera, and so on – the full Morpheus experience could end up being quite expensive, rendering the Morpheus more of a curiosity than the game-changing platform Sony clearly hopes it’ll be.