The promise of virtual reality in the living room is coming closer to, well, reality.
Sony unveiled a prototype headset this week capable of surrounding a wearer’s vision with interactive virtual worlds.
The system, codenamed Project Morpheus, utilises a 1080p head-mounted display with head-tracking capabilities and works with the PlayStation 4 console to display imagery on the headset’s screen, providing a 90-degree field of view.
During a private demonstration of Project Morpheus at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, the headset felt secure thanks to a sturdy yet comfortable halo-like ring that snaps into place around the head.
There’s a wheel positioned on the back headband that can be turned for an even tighter fit.
It’s lighter than one might expect and sleeker than the Oculus Rift, a similar virtual reality headset that’s captured game makers’ imaginations over the past two years but has yet to be released.
A long, thick cable that pokes from the side of the visor, as well as dangling headphone cords, prove cumbersome during physical movement.
The following information provides a look at four of the interactive experiences that Sony used to demonstrate Project Morpheus at the conference:
THE DEEP: This demonstration, created specifically for Project Morpheus by Sony’s London studio, cast a standing user in the role of deep-sea diver – complete with virtual wetsuit and flare gun – inside a shark cage that submerges into the depths of the ocean.
The undersea encounter is interrupted by a great white, which attacks the enclosure at the first whiff of blood.
With lush graphics and stereoscopic 3D audio, The Deep showcased how Project Morpheus could recreate frantic Jaws-like moments.
However, it wasn’t completely immersive because Project Morpheus only tracked movements of the head and DualShock 4 controller, so fin flipping wasn’t translated to the feet on screen.
EVE: Valkyrie: Developed by CCP Games and set in their EVE universe, Valkyrie is a sci-fi multiplayer dogfighter pitting players against each other in the cockpits of galactic fighter jets.
Project Morpheus’ version featured richer graphics and details than the one demonstrated at Oculus Rift’s booth.
Playing in a seated position with a DualShock 4 controller that acts as the spaceship’s yoke provided Valkyrie with a virtual reality advantage.
Pulling off dizzying manoeuvres such as rolls, spins and corkscrews while simultaneously blasting other users compellingly simulated what it might be like to really pilot an X-wing from Star Wars.
NASA MARS PROJECT: The demonstration created in tandem with NASA utilised high-resolution images, captured by both satellites and the Curiosity rover, to transport a user to the surface of Mars. The rover itself, separately navigated by Project Morpheus senior software engineer Anton Mikhailov on a DualShock 4 controller, appeared in the demonstration.
The parts of the landscape closest to the user were crafted from rover imagery, while mountainous vistas in the distance were filled in using satellite data.
The minimalistic demonstration was the most immersive of those on display and showed off the non-game capabilities of Project Morpheus.
THE CASTLE: This combat-centric game demonstration dispatched users to a cartoon-like medieval training ground where they were able to abuse a dummy in suit of armour.
When armed with a pair of PlayStation Move motion controllers in each hand, The Castle depicted gauntlets on the headset’s screen that could reach out and wield swords and a crossbow.
For example, the wand-like controllers could be used to slice off the mannequin’s arm with one hand and grab it with the other before wiggling the appendage and discarding it into the distance.
The controllers flawlessly mimicked hand movement in the virtual castle yard, but a lack of interactive elements in the surrounding space left a desire for more.