Project Morpheus sparks a virtual reality (VR) race as Sony reveals a prototype headset three years in the making. Featuring a 9-inch 1080p LCD screen and advanced motion tracking sensors, the device is placed over the users eyes and secured to their head with a surprisingly comfortable plastic band that can be adjusted for a snug fit. Project Morpheus also features Sony developed 3D audio technology that ensures immersive stereoscopic sound to deliver a whisper in the ear of the player, as well as a distant roar with equal realism and clarity. Working together with a PlayStation 4 system combined with motion sensitive Sixaxis or Move controllers, players can jump into a number of scenarios as if they were really there.
There are currently four Project Morpheus software demonstrations being run by Sony. One is a diving simulator that takes the player from the boat to under the water in a diving cage. There are tense moments as the shark circles the cage, which the player follows by actually turning their head. The tracking is very effective, and Sony has done a very good job reducing the motion sickness that these types of headsets can cause. Sony admits however there is more work to do before Project Morpheus is ready for consumers.
Other test scenarios include piloting a star fighter from the cockpit, craning one’s head to see ships flying around and controlling the craft with a Sixaxis controller. There is also a Mars simulator that uses images from NASA rovers to piece together the alien landscape the players wander through. The last is a sword fighting simulator in which players practice by hacking at an armored dummy. Wielding two Move controllers grants the player virtual gauntlets that can pickup up objects and swing swords. Once again the tracking of the headset is very fine tuned, and the virtual “hands” move very accurately to real life motions.
The early success of Project Morpheus sparks a VR race that start-up Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey is more than happy to run. According to him, the interest in VR shown by a company as large as Sony is a good sign that the technology has support it can depend on for the years it will likely take to get all the bugs ironed out. Luckey’s company just released a second prototype of their VR device the Oculus Rift. This new version featured a high-definition screen and improved motion tracking over the original. The plan is to ship it to developers in July for $350, but there are no details just yet of when a consumer version will be released.
It is very likely that virtual reality will be the final step in gaming. In a time when screens are getting bigger and sharper, and high-end rendering power can be obtained fairly simply, it is an interesting proposition to remove the screen altogether. But how else can players be more efficiently immersed in their chosen world? As the new details of Project Morpheus spark a VR race with Sony, time will tell how immersive these devices can truly be.
By Daniel O’Brien