Sony announces PS4 virtual reality initiative Project Morpheus

PlayStation maker reveals virtual reality initiative at Game Developers Conference; current devkit has 1080p display and 90+ degree field of view.

Today during a special Game Developers Conference presentation in San Francisco, Sony announced a new PlayStation 4 virtual reality initiative that the company hopes will "push the game industry forward."

The head-mounted display prototype is currently called Project Morpheus. It is "by no means" the final prototype, Sony president of Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida said. Sony will continue to improve the device over time, he said.

"Nothing elevates the level of immersion better than VR," Yoshida added.

The current Project Morpheus devkit includes the following functionality:

  • 1080p display
  • 90+ degree field of view
  • 100hz tracking
  • 3 meter working volume
  • Full 360 degrees
  • Supports forward prediction
  • Works if you wear glasses
  • Current iteration is wired
  • DualShock 4 and PS Move detection with same camera
  • Fully adjustable
  • It's name is not reference to The Matrix, but rather the Greek God of Dreams
  • Supports custom headphones and wireless headsets

Of course, Sony's Morpheus device will compete with Oculus Rift. Yoshida said Sony has "nothing but respect" for what that device has achieved so far. He also congratulated Valve on their own efforts in the virtual reality space.

Dr. Richard Marks, of Sony's R&D department, said virtual reality will become the "preferred medium" and will even extend beyond games to other industries. Sony has also partnered with NASA to create a demo that allows the gamer to feel like they are standing on the surface of Mars.

If Sony's Project Morpheus is to succeed, it needs to be easy to use, Marks said. He envisions a future where the device is sitting on your coffee table and you are able to pick it up and quickly get into "VR mode." Marks also said that Project Morpheus will be comfortable and might even be able to automatically adjust to the size of your head.

Project Morpheus will be on display at Sony's booth at GDC this week. Demos at Sony's booth include a special re-working of Square Enix's Thief, as well as a game called The Deep from Sony's London studio, a game called The Castle, and EVE Valkyrie.

Another Sony R&D engineer, Anton Mikhailov, said virtual reality is an entirely new medium and "the rules are different." He also touched on the issue of motion sickness, saying head motion "is law" when designing virtual reality experiences.

List of initial partners for Project Morpheus

Mikhailov also said that virtual reality must keep latency slow, keep frame-rate high, calibrate well, render clean images, and "seal the deal" with 3D audio. He also said that Project Morpheus can work with online multiplayer and local couch multiplayer. "The multiplayer aspect of [VR] is really cool," he said.

Some of Sony's first partners for Project Morpheus include Epic Games, Unity, Crytek, and Autodesk, among others.

Sony has been exploring virtual reality technology for more than three years, even enlisting the help of God of War studio Sony Santa Monica to create multiple prototypes, Yoshida said. One prototype even allowed the user to become Kratos.

Early prototypes used Sony's own HMZ head-mounted display in conjunction with PlayStation Move controllers.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
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