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Sony announces VR headset Project Morpheus during GDC session

Wednesday, 19th March 2014 00:45 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Sony kicked off its GDC 2014 talk entitled “Driving the Future of Innovation at Sony Computer Entertainment” this evening by announcing the not-so-secret VR headset: Project Morpheus.

sonyvrhirez

Project Morpehus announced without Matrix references

The session was presented by SCE Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida, with SCEA R&D senior director Richard Marks, and R&D senior software engineer Anton Mikhailov

The session started with Shuhei Yoshida taking the stage to announce Project Morpheus with a great opening: “Good afternoon everyone, and thanks for coming to this cryptic Sony-sponsored session. You have no idea what we’re gonna talk about.”

Yoshida was likely referring to a earlier report from Forbes which stated Sony had unveiled its Virtual Reality headset during GDC 2014. Not to mention all the rumors of the headset which have been circling the Internet ocean of over a year.

“Thanks for coming to this cryptic Sony-sponsored session. You have no idea what we’re gonna talk about.” – Yoshida

After his opening statement, Yoshida discussed prior innovations at Sony such 3D graphics, CD-ROM tech, Remote Play, and a other PlayStation products. Wasting no time at all, he then announced the firm’s VR tech, which Yoshida said focused on immersive gaming.

“At SCE we view innovation as an opportunity to build on our mission to push the boundaries of play,” said Yoshida. “Project Morpheus is the latest example of innovation from SCE, and 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.”

According to Yoshida, 3D and motion capture can take players to other levels, but VR takes things even further.

Shots were shown on the stage screen of Yoshida wearing an early version of the tech from 2010 and 2011, while a HMD demo of God of War was played. This was Sony’s way of implying that it has been working on the tech for quite some time.

Another demo shown using the tech was of the game Datura being played. Various iterations of the headset were also shown, with one sporting a Move controller attached to the top. While this sounds odd, it still looked similar to a standard VR headset.

“Project Morpheus” is not a final product, but a work-in-progress, he said, and it will be available for GDC attendees to demo tomorrow, March 18.

Yoshida said the headset will work with PlayStation Move, PS Eye and PS4 and the reason the firm chose GDC for the reveal, is that Sony wanted feedback from developers.

Before exiting the stage, Yoshida said how much he respected Oculus Rift and how Oculus VR was an innovator in the sector.

sonyvrgdc2014

The six main challenges with VR

Richard Marks, senior director of Sony’s R&D, took the stage after Yoshida to discuss Project Morpheus and how he wants the tech to be “widely adopted”.

Marks said VR is disruptive and will be the “preferred medium” for many things going forward. He said he had even worked with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to create a Mars demo using images captured from the Curiosity Rover.

Potential for VR is “pervasive,” he said, but there are six main challenges when working with the tech: Sight, Sound, Tracking, Control, Ease of Use and Content.

With sight, in order to achieve presence, hi-rez and a high framerate display is needed. Specialized optics are also a must, and Sony’s experience in that area should help matters.

Project Morpheus Specs

Component: Processor unit, head-mounted unit

Display Method: LCD

Panel Size: 5 inches

Panel Resolution: 1920xRGBx1080 (960xRGBx1080 per eye)

Field of View: 90 degrees

Tracking: 1000Hz; full 360 degrees rotation

Sensors: Accelerometer, Gyroscope

Connection interface: HDMI + USB

Function: 3D audio, Social Screen

Sound is also very important with VR, Marks continued, as it’s important for things to sound identical to real world counterparts. Directionality of the sound is also important, and Sony’s developed new tech to help in that respect.

Tracking, according to Marks, is the most important component in VR. Because of this, Sony is using the same tech included in PlayStation Move, only with higher rate sensors, and the PlayStation Camera.

“We think the tracking will be one of the metrics that judges how good your VR is,” said Marks.

Control is the biggest challenge by far, he said, but PS Move makes an excellent VR controller. The goal is for users to set the VR headset on their coffee tables, and then just slip it on and off at will.

“We want it to be easy for people. It has to be plug and play, and comfortable,” Marks added.

Content for the VR headset is also important, and Sony Worldwide will be developing more than a few projects; however, Sony wants a wide range of developers to create content for it, thus the aforementioned reason for a GDC reveal.

“We want to make PlayStation the best place for VR – and not just for playing, but for developing,” he said.

With this, Marks left the stage and was replaced by Anton Mikhailov, senior software engineer at Sony R&D.

VRawaits

VR is a medium, not a peripheral

Mikhailov began his presentation by stating VR is a “medium, not a peripheral,” and games “are only one type of content”.

“Head motion is law and presence trumps game design in VR. A lot of the rules from traditional games just don’t apply,” he said.

Mikhailov said before VR can become hard to differentiate from reality, quite a few technological hurdles to overcome. One of these is full body tracking, which right now isn’t an option due to latency issues. Another problem tech teams face is arm position as there’s a depth conflict. Clipping and how it’s accommodated in the virtual world is another issue which needs to be overcome.

“There are still a lot of game design challenges in VR we don’t have the answers too yet,” said Mikhailov.

Presence, however, is the unique selling point for the tech, he said. To achieve it, latency has to be low and framerate needs to be high. Rendering images cleanly is really important in VR as is 3D audio.

Input is also important, and driving games work really well due to the lack of abstraction when using a wheel compared to a gamepad.

“Emotion will be amplified – you have complete sensory blackout,” said Mikhailov. “That’s why we go to cinemas, where it’s dark and the sound’s great. You get a whole new palette of emotions you can work with – vertigo, claustrophobia, fear of the dark, fear of void and extreme horror.”

All said, VR has to be for everyone, and the hardware has to be comfortable, he said, and the content has to be varied enough and the experience needs to be shared via multiplayer online or locally.

The present dev kit available is 1080p with a 90 degree field of vision, three meter working volume, 1000Hz tracking, and full 360 degrees rotation tracking. DualShock 4 and PS Move both work with the same camera, and the kit also has a true spatial sound system, synthesized by simulating the human ear – it can simulate 60 virtual speakers around the user.

This provides the user with “pinpoint precision of where the sound is coming from.”

“Head motion is law and presence trumps game design in VR. A lot of the rules from traditional games just don’t apply. There’s still a lot of game design challenges in VR we don’t have the answers too yet.” – Mikhailov

The headset is also described by Mikhailov as comfortable for prolonged use, it supports custom headphones, and it has a social screen feature that splits the signal onto the main TV. This will allow the user to show people what they are playing through an undistorted mirror image.

It will also allow for asymmetric gameplay, which means the person watching the TV while you play can mess with you by manipulating the game world.

To close out the talk before the starting a Q&A session, video images on the stage screen showed a title called The Deep from Sony London Studio, Eve: Valkyrie, Thief, one called The Castle from SCE where the player uses Move for a weapon, and others.

During the Q&A, Sony said at present the dev kit has a 5-meter wire but the team is looking at wireless solution. The tech was “coming out as soon as possible,” and the release focus will be on PS4.

Sony would not say when or if Project Morpheus would work on PC or not; however, compatibility with Vita is a possibility should the headset ever go wireless.

Cost and weight are to be decided as it’s still in the development stages, but Mikhailov said the price will be as “low as possible.”

Live blogs of the session used for this report were hosted on Engadget and Eurogamer. Both did an amazing job of it too.

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40 Comments

  1. Michael Ireland

    It’s going to be a sad state when this whole VR thing sinks like a brick.

    #1 8 months ago
  2. Stephany Nunneley

    Ok. It’s done. I am on typo and cleaning patrol. It will be “pretty” soon, promise.

    #2 8 months ago
  3. Moonwalker1982

    @Michael Ireland You think it is a given that it’s gonna fail? If rumours are true, MS will also come with VR. And project Fortaleza showed it. I don’t know man, i am definitely sceptical about it too, but i DO love the idea of it. Why do you think it will sink like a brick? Majority of people don’t want to wear it?

    #3 8 months ago
  4. Panthro

    @Michael Ireland

    More copy and pasting from the VR hating bot Michael Ireland…

    Really should be quicker to remove these vg247, I have grown tired of seeing them everywhere, they just insist on posting the same crap over and over and over and over and over and over and over….

    #4 8 months ago
  5. salarta

    Sony’s been on the path for this for a while, so it’s really no surprise. Though Oculus Rift got the ball rolling, Sony already had the personal viewer headsets that currently cost way too much money for the average person, but serve as a starting point.

    The main thing I think people need to keep in mind is that this is something that, at least at first, isn’t going to be used in public. Headsets like these look too goofy for people to want to wear unless they know the general public won’t think they’re strange for it. A secondary thing that needs to be kept in mind is, as mentioned in the article, VR headsets have to be more than just a screen up to your eyes. They need to include ways of doing games differently. If it’s just a screen up to your eyes, there’s much less reason to buy it.

    @Michael Ireland I think VR is going to take off, but overexposure at such an early stage is going to be a huge blow for a while. Many people are going to think it’s pure gimmick, especially when they get themselves too hyped up with what are currently unrealistic expectations.

    #5 8 months ago
  6. salarta

    @Panthro Saying the same basic criticism or praise for more than one article is not the same thing as spamming. You may not like what he’s saying, but he has a right to say it.

    #6 8 months ago
  7. Panthro

    @salarta

    I didn’t say it wasn’t his right…

    I just don’t see the point of entering every article about VR over the course of months and saying the same thing over and over.

    I wouldn’t waste my time if I didn’t like something that articles were based on regularly.
    I just don’t see the point of me entering every article about MMO’s and repeating “I don’t like MMO’s, they will never be good”

    I actually that kind of behaviour is abnormal and probably worth talking to a therapist about.

    #7 8 months ago
  8. salarta

    @Panthro You just said in comment #4 that VG247 should be removing his comments. If he had a right to say what he wants to say in your eyes, then you wouldn’t be calling for his comments to be removed.

    There are all sorts of reasons for someone to complain about something they don’t like more than once, and unlike other people (e.g. me), he only posts a sentence or two. The usual reason is venting, often over something about to happen that seems inevitable despite not being a good thing. In your example, maybe someone would complain about MMOs a lot because they don’t want promising non-MMO ideas to be rejected just because some suits think there’s no money in it. It’s not a “therapist” sort of thing, especially if it’s only a sentence or two every so often. It’s just human nature.

    #8 8 months ago
  9. Obernox

    It looks :)

    @Michael Ireland We don’t know that yet.

    #9 8 months ago
  10. Stephany Nunneley

    Ok. Post is “pretty” now and tidy. I think I nuked 99% of the typos and meandering sentences. If not, apologies but it is almost 11pm and I should be in bed. I’m no fun.

    Thanks for staying up so late with me UK and east coasters in the US. <3 <3

    #10 8 months ago
  11. salarta

    @Stephany Nunneley I bet you get invited to a lot of parties. Probably slumber parties. Ohgodputtheknifedownitwasjustajoke! :P

    Thanks for the work.

    #11 8 months ago
  12. SlayerGT

    @Stephany Nunneley Night lady.

    #12 8 months ago
  13. Dragon

    @Panthro,
    You see, the person defending that does the same on a particular Japanese game company page, so its not surprising really.

    I just don’t see the point of me entering every article about MMO’s and repeating “I don’t like MMO’s, they will never be good”
    +1. Same as going to every cloud gaming page to say same thing again and again. Of course, they can say whatever they want. But doing it on almost every page? Surely there are better things to do in life.

    Also funny is how tech is adjudged shit without even given a chance based on hyperbole and exaggeration of personal opinions. “Innovation” is a word, right?

    #13 8 months ago
  14. Dragon

    Btw, the thing and tech looks great. Pricing would be the major hurdle though.

    Arcade PS4 VR machines for games like theatres for films?

    #14 8 months ago
  15. Dragon

    http://www.polygon.com/2014/3/18/5524432/eve-valkyrie-project-morpheus-sony-oculus-publishing

    Smart move? Don’t think Occulus creators would be too happy with this. It was one of the biggest Rift exclusive afaik.

    #15 8 months ago
  16. Michael Ireland

    @Moonwalker1982 Two words.

    Motion Control.

    The average consumer will not want to sit around with a device on their head anymore than JoeCoD57 wanted a Wii Balance Board. The concept is far cooler than the reality.

    #16 8 months ago
  17. TheKeyPit

    Cool thing, but who will develope AAA games for it, when the majority of costumers are not going to have it?

    #17 8 months ago
  18. Fin

    Anybody who says VR won’t work hasn’t tried it.

    I’m more optimistic about VR than I am about 4K.

    #18 8 months ago
  19. ChristopherJack

    I’m cautiously optimistic about this. Not sure if it’ll be a critical success but I think someone will crack the perfect VR formula soon then it’ll take off like hotcakes. That being said, 90 degrees does sound a little low, that’s half our site. I recall hearing that humans binocular vision(that both eyes can see hence better depth perception) is roughly 120 degrees

    #19 8 months ago
  20. Erthazus

    (960xRGBx1080 per eye – Too LOW. It’s not going to work for most people.

    #20 8 months ago
  21. Fin

    @Erthazus

    lol i no shitty sub hd resolution so shit go back to halo fanboy

    Brb, going to play MW3 for 500 hours

    #21 8 months ago
  22. ChristopherJack

    @Erthazus, I don’t know about that Ez, maybe for your but when I hold my 4.7″ 720p phone a couple inches away from my face the picture remains crisp. I can still see the pixels but it’s tolerable.

    Of course more is always better but at some point you must realize that you’re asking too much, this is supposed to be a mass consumer device, they could get away with a few hundred dollars but it’ll never take off at $1000+ which would probably necessary for multiple 2k+ screens, maybe later on your dreams will come true & they’ll release additional premium models.

    I know you’ll probably point at their pricey head mounted displays but I don’t think they were ever intended to become a mainstay product, more or less testing the waters before they get serious hence their absurd price for a mediocre resolution.

    #22 8 months ago
  23. Erthazus

    @ChristopherJack You don’t understand. This is not about how crisp the image is. It is about eye issues and with that resolution people will get sick pretty quickly.
    Oculus Rift is in development and they said that they need 4K image at min to make it playable for hours for most of the people.

    Kojima for example tested Oculus Rift and he was sick after 5 minutes and he had an old dev kit with the same resolution.

    #23 8 months ago
  24. Erthazus

    @Fin you are stupid and don’t understand anything. Deal with it.

    #24 8 months ago
  25. ChristopherJack

    @Erthazus I don’t know if that has to do with resolution or the fact that you have a somewhat heavy device putting pressure on your head with a display an inch away from your eyes. Some people get sick wearing standard over-ear headphones & simple sunglasses.

    #25 8 months ago
  26. Erthazus

    @ChristopherJack That’s the common problem with VR headsets that with low FOV and resolution people are getting sick really fast. It’s called “Motion sickness”.

    #26 8 months ago
  27. Fin

    @Erthazus

    Er, saying I don’t understand anything is a bit ironic coming from you.

    Resolution is important with VR headsets, but dismissing a headset because it’s not 4k is simply ridiculous. “Motion sickness”, as, holy fuck, the name actually implies, is to do with the brain’s perception of motion, not a low FOV or resolution (though these contibute). You can have a wide FOV and a 4K screen, but nothing’s ever going to fix the fact that you can’t feel motion despite your brain perceiving it.

    Talking in general terms, “with that resolution people will get sick pretty quickly”, is total horseshit. It obviously varies per person, but I was able to use a Rift devkit (with the shitty sub 1080p res made my eyes bleed etc) for about 90m, playing tech demos and TF2, with no ill effects (other than feeling a little odd after taking it off).

    Please don’t talk like you’ve experience with something when you plainly don’t.

    #27 8 months ago
  28. _LarZen_

    This is the future of gaming! Virtual Reality is the vitamin boost gaming have been in need of for years.

    I’m just glad I can be a part of this. And I can’t wait to get my hands on Sony’s and Oculus VR headsets.

    The future of gaming suddenly looks much brighter.

    #28 8 months ago
  29. Panthro

    @salarta

    Venting?

    He needs to “vent” over a piece of tech?

    You see the same garbage posted by console fanboys who dislike other platforms and in my opinion most of them need some type of help because it isn’t normal.

    I was kidding about vg taking his post’s down, well done for also being a bot and not seeing the humour.

    As for it being “human nature” for someone to follow a piece of tech around and call it shit every chance he gets, I don’t see it.
    I just think it’s weird it’s a weird behaviour to do.

    If he doesn’t like it, cool… He could live his life away from these articles in pure harmony not being distracted by anything VR, I know that’s what I would do if I had this type of dislike for something.
    For example:

    There is people who like Justin Bieber

    There is people who don’t like him so choose to ignore him

    Then there is people who also don’t like him but choose to watch all of his videos and post negative comments…

    See what I’m getting at? Its the type of same situation.

    #29 8 months ago
  30. Moonwalker1982

    @Michael Ireland

    I see. But still a shitload of people bought Kinect, so who knows. We’ll see what happens. I wonder if MS is going to try their hand at this too and show it this week. There are rumours after all.

    #30 8 months ago
  31. salarta

    @Panthro IF he’s venting (I was only stating a possibility, not a definite), it wouldn’t be just because the piece of tech exists. It would be because of things the tech affects. You’re thinking way, way too narrow.

    Purely as a talking point, since I don’t know where he’s coming from for myself, he can’t exactly “live his life away from anything VR” if nearly all games, or at least the top games getting put out, are available only for use with VR.

    #31 8 months ago
  32. Michael Ireland

    @salarta I don’t hate the technology. I just think it’s a niche gimmick.

    VR is a popular topic of discussion right now. As a regular poster on the site, I’m going to express my critical opinion on the subject, whether it be positive or negative. If people don’t like my opinion… *shrugs* It’s just an opinion.

    People get far more bent out of shape over my opinion than I give thought to it, which is kind of funny to watch honestly.

    #32 8 months ago
  33. Moonwalker1982

    The things this guy says make sense

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yPdgYZ_040

    Especially what he says about a person to lives together with his girl or wife, the guy that comes back from work and just wants to relax. He makes some good points. We will have to wait and see if this ever really takes off.

    #33 8 months ago
  34. _LarZen_

    @Michael Ireland Have you tried the Oculus Rift Developers version? Or even better the new V2?

    #34 8 months ago
  35. Michael Ireland

    @_LarZen_ The first one. It made me ill almost instantly, but that’s mostly an issue with my own eyesight.

    That has absolutely nothing to do with my opinion of the technology though. But it’s certainly one of many other factors limiting it.

    #35 8 months ago
  36. Michael Ireland

    @Panthro Hahaha.

    #36 8 months ago
  37. salarta

    @Michael Ireland “People get far more bent out of shape over my opinion than I give thought to it, which is kind of funny to watch honestly.”

    Congratulations on knowing what it’s like to be me at some points. :P

    My comments here are mainly to defend the right of users getting to say what they want to say. There’s a tendency to try and quell dissenting opinion by suggesting a person isn’t allowed to have a complaint for some reason or another, and there are a lot of reasons that a person can come up with to justify the idea of user censorship or self-censorship that in reality has its basis in not liking the difference of opinion.

    #37 8 months ago
  38. Panthro

    @salarta

    I wasn’t criticising his opinion in any way, I really don’t mind if someone doesn’t like the Rift, I haven’t even tried it yet so my mind is still fairly open about it… I am looking forward to trying it though.
    I was just referring to him repeating the same post on every VR article, it’s fine to have an opinion but once everyone has heard it there is really no use in repeating it over and over unless there is something wrong, maybe whilst using the Rift someone touched his boobs so now he hates it and is hoping it doesn’t take off to avoid further molestation. (speculation; not fact, I don’t know if he has boobs or not)

    #38 8 months ago
  39. ddtd

    @TheKeyPit – Sony will have to put out a few KILLER first party VR games. Likely from established franchises and they have to be nearly flawless, at least from the VR side of things.

    Also, including one of these dream VR games with the headset would definitely help with sales.

    #39 8 months ago
  40. Michael Ireland

    @salarta I completely agree.

    If VR wasn’t a popular topic, I wouldn’t be discussing it.

    #40 8 months ago

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