Skip to main content

Sony's VR headset is a worthy competitor for the Oculus Rift

Sony's VR headset is a worthy competitor for the Oculus Rift

Share this story

Yesterday, Sony suddenly became one of the most important players in virtual reality. At the 2014 Game Developers Conference, it unveiled Project Morpheus, a VR headset for the PlayStation 4. This isn't just a piece of hardware, it's Sony putting its weight behind virtual reality, supporting developers and working to build out an ecosystem for the technology. Today, we got to try out a rough version of that ecosystem, and despite obvious caveats, it's a promising start.

You'll look a little ridiculous, but you'll do so in comfort

The first thing you notice about the Morpheus headset is that it's surprisingly comfortable. Make no mistake, you'll still look ridiculous, but it's balanced to take the weight off your nose and forehead, with the help of a plastic ring that clamps around the back of your head. It's also easy to take on and off — you essentially support the front with your palms while ratcheting the back shut — although it still takes a little fine-tuning. Sony's had a lot of practice with this, improving on the third generation of non-interactive virtual theaters, and that practice shows. The headset knows when you put it on, and the lenses are great, curving without touching your eyelashes, although they can fog up after a few minutes. I'll withhold final judgment until I've gotten to use Project Morpheus for more than 20 minutes, but I could definitely imagine using it comfortably for stretches of an hour or more.

The obvious, unavoidable point of comparison for Project Morpheus is the Oculus Rift, which Sony now says it hopes to stay in friendly competition with. Morpheus and the Rift use 1080p screens and similar head-tracking technologies, but their strengths and weaknesses vary. Both headsets have gone a long way towards eliminating lag, but Morpheus is still a little blurrier than the newest version of the Rift. Conversely, its superior lenses have actually done better at removing the blocky "screen door" effect, even if the display obviously can't measure up to a 2D counterpart. It's great at blocking out light without feeling stifling, something the Rift still struggles with. Its 90-degree field of view, however, is a definite detriment. The first Oculus Rift developer kit left thin black bars in your peripheral vision, but Project Morpheus has unavoidable, often distracting black half-moons. It's still impressive, but it's got to get a lot better before I'd call it truly immersive.

Sony's camera and Move controller build out a VR ecosystem

Sony's peripherals create something of an ecosystem for Morpheus: the PlayStation Move provides motion control, and the console's camera peripheral tracks your head position. It's a fairly versatile system: you can lean over a railing, crouch, or turn completely around. It doesn't, however, seem to track as precisely as the Rift. What you see on the screen can progressively drift away from where you actually feel like you are. My experience with the Move controllers was more scattershot. They're a good idea for virtual reality, giving you a combination of free motion and haptic feedback, but the medieval tech demo meant to showcase them became virtually unplayable when you tried to pick up a sword and saw your disembodied hands shoot across the room.

The actual command center for Project Morpheus is a small set-top box with USB, power, and three HDMI ports, which both connect the headset and split off what your left eye sees in order to mirror it on a television. Actually conveying what's going on inside a headset like the Oculus Rift is extremely difficult, since all you see outside it is a pair of small rounded squares, and Sony has taken a big step forward by adding a clean, non-VR video feed. There's both an element of spectatorship and an opportunity for asymmetrical gameplay, where other players either compete against or cooperate with the person wearing Morpheus.

There's no price or release date on a final version of Project Morpheus, and Sony has confirmed that it's definitely not coming this year. What we've seen, though, is a worthy entrant into the admittedly small head-mounted display market. Sony's hardware improves on the Rift's design, and despite some problems with image quality, it certainly measures up to similar options. For now, what we're really waiting on is a real stable of VR games, beyond tech demos and some adaptations of non-VR titles like Thief. And given its considerable clout with game developers, this will hopefully be an area where Sony really shines.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 24 Striking out

E
External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


A
Youtube
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.


A
The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


A
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.


A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
J
Twitter
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


A
External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.


A
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.