The futuristic visions of virtual reality that started in 1990s are closer than ever to revolutionizing video games, classrooms, and science.
At this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Sony confirmed rumors of a virtual reality platform for Playstation 4, code-named Project Morpheus. The president of Sony Computer Entertainment World Wide Studios, Shuhei Yoshida, presented a virtual-reality, head-mounted display at the conference. Still a prototype, the white headpiece featured a full 1080p high-definition, 3-D display behind a small black visor.
Yoshida said virtual reality might shape the future of games, explaining that a “sense of presence” is the key to immersion in gameplay. The display tracks users’ head movements, senses where they are looking, and mirrors their motions in the game with almost no delay. Morpheus depends on the Playstation Camera, now sold separately, to track blue LEDs on the headset. The Morpheus keeps most of its weight on top of the wearer’s head, not on the cheeks and nose, allowing for more comfort, unlike virtual reality headsets of the past.
Also at the presentation, Richard Marks of Playstation research and development explained how Morpheus, in partnership with NASA, will allow users to virtually walk on the surface of Mars.
Sony set up several hands-on demos for attendees, including an undersea experience called The Deep, a space dogfighting game called EVE: Valkyrie, and the recently released game Thief.
But Sony isn’t the only company ready to bring this type of technology to gamers. Oculus VR is working on a display called the Oculus Rift. So far it’s not known if the Oculus, still in the prototype phase, will work on any home gaming consoles or only computers. The Oculus Rift also supports EVE: Valkyrie.
Sony has no official release date or price for Morpheus yet, but gamers are already imagining mining deep in the world of Minecraft or taking the wheel of their favorite sports car.