If you are a dedicated Sony PS4 gamer, you’re very likely not going to be disappointed at all with the performance of the PSVR system. Sure, you’re going to see some display pixelation and blurriness on occasion, especially with fast action in front of your eyes or when you are moving your head real fast, but overall the experience is surprisingly entertaining and visually impressive.
The current immersive environment offered by the PSVR is not going to impress anyone inside the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift user communities. However, if it suits up to 40 million gamers with visually rich experiences that are simply not possible with straight vanilla PS4 units, then Sony’s not going to be crying to the bank.
Sony has been working on their PSVR headset for several years now, since Sony’s Project Morpheus was announced in 2014. However, Sony has a history of developing head-mounted technology. Their Glasstron technology was introduced in 1997. It allowed users to experience the visual environment inside the cockpit of the robotic Mech in the game, MechWarrior 2, enabling the game player to see the battlefield from the Mech’s pov.
Their first consumer HMD unit was the HMZ-T1, which they coined a personal 3D viewer when it launched in 2011. It hosted two 720p OLED displays and a near 40-degree field of view (FoV). Several more HMZ follow-on upgrade attempts to get a consumer HMD device to really take off sputtered.
Here we are now, just shy of two decades after Sony first tried to develop and market a successful head-mounted display and two things jump out as rather obvious.
First, the PSVR HMD to be released in October 2016 is almost a direct design descendent of the premature Glasstron unit and the more recent HMZ devices. The functional industrial design approach is remarkably similar, especially the forehead retainer and the design concept for the circular retention arms that hold the HMD against the back of the head.
Second, it’s pretty apparent to anyone who has donned and used the current PSVR HMD that Sony finally got it right after two decades. Sony’s industrial designers and consumer electronics engineers shaved a lot of mass off the temporal sides of the old HMZ unit to bolster the VR viewing enclosure of the current model. Compared to the old HMZ series, the soon to be released head-mounted display unit has much better display technology. The PSVR sports a much more user friendly, safe, and comfortable configuration for the rear retention arm system in that helps the HMD stay in place against the back of your head.
The mass and balance issues were addressed as well. The old HMZ unit suffered from way too much forward centric mass. The new PSVR headset is nicely balanced and only weighs 610 grams, excluding the cable dangling from the rear retention arm at the back of your head.
Using current state-of-the-art technologies, the PSVR camera can track the X-Y-Z position of the PSVR headset at up to 1,000 times per second by tracking nine LED lights integrated into strategic locations on the exterior surfaces of the headset. You can turn your head 360 degrees around and look up and look down, even to the point where you laugh a bit at yourself because you don’t see your legs, but you know you’re looking in the direction of your non-VR and very real human legs.
The message here is quite clear to the marketplace. Sony is not a company that came up with a Kickstarter project a few years ago to make a new VR headset that launched version 2.0 of the VR craze — v1.0 largely started by Jaron Lanier failed. Sony has two decades of core competence in such head mounted displays.
It also must be noted that Sony has pretty much nailed a gorgeous and highly functional headset for the long haul of the VR industry v2.0. Consider this like you would the sexy chassis of a Corvette that can be upgraded anytime in future model years – with improved engines and lighter weight materials to enable a better horsepower to weight ratio – a much better performing car.
As the VR industry matures with advancing technologies, Sony can easily upgrade its sporty new Corvette of a headset with the then latest and greatest display and sensor and ultra light materials technologies.
If I were Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, I’d be pretty nervous about a deep pocketed company presiding over 40 million game station users who can incorporate the best future technologies into their best-in-class headset design anytime they want
It shows. Once you start experiencing VR world spaces with this HMD on your noggin’, you barely notice it’s there.