MARCH 21, 2014 • A PlayStation 4 virtual reality system is in the works, according to a disclosure by Sony Computer Ent. Dubbed Project Morpheus, the new VR system operates in conjunction with the PlayStation Camera and inertial sensors built into the Morpheus head unit to track a user’s head orientation and movement. As the player’s head rotates, the image of the virtual world is designed to rotate naturally and intuitively in real-time. In addition to the visual display, Morpheus also is set to include proprietary 3D audio technology so that sound and images work together to enhance the experience. To increase the sense of in-game realism, sounds that players hear adapt to the user’s head orientation and movement. Similarly, extensive integration is also intended for the PS Move and PS4 Controller. No commercial release plan has been announced, and the Morpheus developer SDK is still under development.
Impact: With all of the glowing press that the Oculus Rift has been garnering we are not surprised that Sony has its own VR technology in the works for the PS4. The question for all of these game VR systems, however, is how many consumers will really care. A few years ago there was a drumbeat for 3D games and home theater that did not pan out. People are a bit particular about having to wear head-based peripherals, especially if the folks in question already wear eyeglasses. Now they will be asked to wear a rather more cumbersome VR projector. Another consideration is where they have to wear this isolating headset. Most game systems are in the living room, which by nature; tend to be areas crowded by furniture, clutter and pets. Even when a wide area is cleared prior to game play, there is every expectation that consumers captivated by their VR experience are going to trip over the toy that the dog or cat just nudged in front of them. We can only imagine the disclaimers corporate lawyers will insist on etching onto the cases of these devices. On the plus side, Sony’s Morpheus is an optional add-on. Only people who really want the VR experience will have to deal with it. We expect that production runs will initially be modest for the Morpheus whenever it arrives, which should lead to a price over $100. Both factors will lead third-party developers to think twice about supporting VR in their PS4 titles. Microsoft Studios is taking the wait-and-see approach to virtual reality in much the same way they responded to the arrival of 3D games a few years ago. We agree with that conclusion.