Sony’s Project Morpheus has been revealed at GDC after months of rumors and speculations surrounding Sony’s answer to the Oculus Rift. Project Morpheus for the PlayStation 4 has long been anticipated, as we covered last month. What we were lacking in details has now been brought to light during a panel at GDC entitled, “Driving the Future of Innovation at Sony Computer Entertainment”.
“Thank you for coming to this cryptic Sony presentation.” were the first words from Shuhei Yoshida as the conference started in a small room for about 500. The quip was aimed at the all but unspoken fact that a new VR headset was about to be released. While people expected Sony to deliver a competitor to Oculus Rift, no one was prepared for what was to come.
Sony has been experimenting with a VR headset since the fall of 2010 with duct tape and a PS Move controller. One of the earliest prototypes of Project Morpheus was a quickly assembled arena environment from God of War 2 where the player was seeing through the eyes of Kratos.
While the head mounted controller with head-tracking did not have the desired effect, it was enough to show Sony the potential for VR gaming, and a dedicated work group was formed. The end result is what was unveiled today as Project Morpheus.
The buzzword surrounding the Project Morpheus headset, and in fact most VR talk, is “Presence.” It is the feeling that you’re physically somewhere else. In order to achieve the sense of presence for Project Morpheus to work, Sony states it requires 6 things: sight, sound, tracking, control, ease of use and the all important thing for all hardware, content.
The technology is based around the PlayStation Move, which was introduced during the PlayStation 3 as an answer to motion control gaming which the Wii made popular. Now it appears that an ulterior motive may have been in the works for much longer. The PlayStation Move controller offered true 1 to 1 motion, which the Wii was never able to duplicate even with the Wii Motion Plus sensor. With Move already built into PlayStation 4 controllers and the camera as an optional purchase, the barrier to entry with a Sony console will be far easier than the road Oculus has to climb.
And the statistics are on par with the Oculus. Project Morpheus will feature 1080p visuals with a 90 degree field of view. The PlayStation camera will check your position 1000 times every second, and you will be able to turn a full 360 degrees. For the audiophile, it will be able to simulate 60 virtual speakers all around you, giving amazing possibilities for both gaming and experiencing other media such as an interactive concert.
The session included three of the biggest heavyweights at Sony: Richard Marks, Senior Director of SCEA R&D, Anon Mikhailov, Sr. Software Engineer at SCEA R&D and Shuhei Yoshia, Prsident of SCE Worldwide Studios. Even before the session began stories around the web like Engadget’s were pointing to GDC leading the week of virtual reality gaining wider appeal to developers and Project Morpheus is the result.
Even though the hype over Project Morpheus is warranted, other VR competitors are also at GDC wanting to carve out a niche within a niche. The Oculus Rift is the independent VR headset that has been promised for retail consumption. However no retail unit will likely be shown at GDC due to the fact that the original Oculus Rift devkit was just discontinued due to components no longer available for the manufacturing of the headset according to Eurogamer. A new prototype, codenamed, Crystal Cove, has ben seen making the rounds demoing games such as EVE: Valkyrie but no devkit has been released yet so there is no real estimate on when the next Oculus will be available for developers.
Project Morpheus has no release date, but there are playable builds at GDC which led to great applause from the audience. Titles like Thief, Eve: Valkyrie, and others were confirmed to be playable at the Sony booth tomorrow. The tech is impressive, and while Oculus may still surprise us tomorrow with a new prototype that is one par or more powerful that Project Morpheus, Sony has something that may be the deciding factor: production experience. Oculus tech was ahead of the curve when it was announced, but they have a lack of hardware production experience. Also, Sony is a recognizable brand which will also help when Project Morpheus launches. As always, time will tell. Keep checking back with The Inquisitir‘s gaming section for the latest news from GDC 2014