Sony unveils Project Morpheus VR headset at GDC

Device to be demoed to attendees on Sony's booth at show

Sony has confirmed a long-standing rumour and thrown its hat into the VR headset ring, announcing the Project Morpheus at GDC this evening. The Morpheus will be integrate into the PlayStation ecosystem, connecting to the PS4.

Don't expect the headset to appear in the shops anytime soon, however - this is clearly a work in progress. Hardware is far from finalised, but the spec listed by Sony at this point is a 1080p, 90 degree display with 15 mm eye relief. Prototypes have 1000hz tracking with a three metre working volume, enabling 360 degree head movement. Forward prediction to help eliminate pipeline latency is also possible, but not recommended.

CCP's Eve spin-off Valkyrie will be demoed on the headset at Sony's booth, as will Square-Enix's Thief, a mediaeval demo called castle and a deep-sea diving simulator from Sony's London studio.

The Morpheus will be using PS Move technology rather than accelerometers to track head movements - with the PLayStation Eye camera required . By using that tech, Sony hopes to give its device an edge in accuracy over rivals.

The news came during session hosted by Shuhei Yoshida, assisted by Sony R&D gurus Richard Marks and Anton Mikhailov, entitled "Driving the Future of Innovation at Sony Computer Entertainment." Yoshida talked at length about Sony's passion for pushing the boundaries of play with technological innovation and new ideas. VR, he believes, will be the next disruptive force in that continuing evolution.

A list of companies currently on board with Morpheus development.

A list of companies currently on board with Morpheus development.

Slides were shown of prototypes of the device, using Move wands 'duct-taped' to existing headsets, followed by a short video of God of War being played with an early version of the hardware. A physical prototype of the Morpheus was then revealed on stage, and attendees were invited to visit the Sony booth in order to experience a demonstration during the show. GamesIndustry International will have a full report on the device as soon as possible.

The move puts the hardware giant into a market which is currently dominated by the Oculus Rift - a piece of hardware which has yet to be commercially released. By staking their own claim, Sony has established itself as a significant rival, with the rapidly burgeoning install base of the PS4 giving them a potentially enormous advantage, as well as a hefty USP for the platform.

Also, with first and third party studios on board to take advantage of the tech, Sony can expect a consistent flow of high-value games to populate the device's catalogue. Yoshida promised simple integration and fine-tuning based on the feedback from developers.

After Yoshida had revealed the device, Richard Marks took the stage to talk about its potential applications. Sony, he said has been working with partners as illustrious as NASA to perfect the feeling of 'presence' offered by Project Morpheus, explaining that he'd spent a day using visual data from the Curiosity Rover to simulate a first person experience of being on the surface of Mars.

Early headset prototypes, as modelled by Shu.

Early headset prototypes, as modelled by Shu.

Marks also intimated that the stereo-camera design of the new PlayStation Eye camera was built with VR firmly in mind. The Dualshock 4 and Move wand are also going to be tightly integrated to the overall system.

Much work is still left to be done, Marks admitted. The eventual aim is have an incredibly accessible device which can be plugged in and used immediately, as simply as putting on a pair of glasses. That process of feedback driven iterated development will rely heavily on the input of developers themselves, hence Sony's choice of GDC as the event to host the reveal.

Sony has form in wearable displays, with the company's HMZ-T3W using a twin OLED HD display to simulate a 700 inch cinema screen for the wearer, itself an evolution of a previous HMZ model.

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Latest comments (21)

Asif A. Khan, CPA Financial Reporter 5 years ago
Looking forward to Project Neo from Oculus VR. Now, let the typical VR debate begin in the comment section below....
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Been looking forward to being truly immersed in games for the last 30 years. Congratulations and thanks to all involved at Sony and Oculus for making my childhood dreams come true. Can't wait :-)
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 5 years ago
Also, with first and third party studios on board to take advantage of the tech, Sony can expect a consistent flow of high-value games to populate the device's catalogue.
Well, it's a non-standard piece of hardware which requires a buy-in from the consumer, so that's debatable. If Sony start offering bundles with the tech in, then there'll be more consumer up-take (obviously), and more developers will take advantage of it. However, until that point, the number of VR units "in the wild" is an unknown... And it all comes down to this:
Yoshida promised simple integration and fine-tuning based on the feedback from developers.
If it's easily integrated, with little in the way of financial or man-hour costs, then there'd be no reason not to add in support on the assumption that the user will have the VR tech. But if it significantly extends development time and costs, third-party support will dry-up, because pubs/devs won't want to risk it.
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Show all comments (21)
Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany5 years ago
Seems this new front is starting to evolve seriously if it makes the step to consoles. It is worth following closely.
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James Boulton Owner, Retro HQ Ltd5 years ago
After using the Rift I can only see this stuff is going to take off. Its in its infancy, sure, and the resolution is currently rubbish, but the difference in immersion is staggering. Now if I could only train my brain not to want to show me my lunch after 10 minutes of playing...

However my young kids don't suffer simulator sickness, so I think we may grow a generation of VR users. Getting people to adopt in mass numbers could be tricky with the motion sickness induced. And regardless of what they say, they cant fix it. They fact you are moving in a virtual world and staying still in the real world will not go away.

Either way, awesome stuff, very interested to see where it all goes.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 5 years ago
They really come out punching, until they stumble over their own device, namely the Playstation camera. 1000Hz tracking on the device, but combining that with a 30fps camera? On a USB connection? So much for lag free tracking.

But it is great to see that we are finally moving away from waving our arms at the TV and into devices which genuinely excite. I would rather live in a cave under a mountain than live in a world where Flappy Bird Kinect is the future.
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Jed Ashforth Senior Game Designer, Immersive Technology Group, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe5 years ago
Very excited that we could finally reveal this last night, and it had a fantastic reception. Demos start today, can't wait to see the reactions from our players!
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Christopher Ingram Editor-at-Large, Digitally Downloaded5 years ago
@James I've not been able to give one of these VR headsets a trail run as of yet, but you just answered one of my questions - is there a moderate to high risk of motion sickness involved with these headsets? While I have practically no issue with motion sickness, I, however, do have issues with rapid motion in 3D displays, especially in films.

Also, one of the issues that the 3DS faced in the early days was the risk of damage to the player's eyes. HD displays tend to be quite bright and having that display a few inches in front of your eyes seems likely to be damaging with extended use.

Not trying to be a pessimist, but these are things that I think could have the potential of keeping these devices from becoming a staple product in the industry, especially for everyday use, instead of a novelty item like PlayStation Move and Kinect.
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Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd5 years ago
@Klaus The Playstation 4 camera runs at 60-240fps. I'm not sure where this results in lag any more or less than Oculus's solution anyway.
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James Coote Independent Game Developer 5 years ago
I tried out the Oculus Rift with a diving simulator game last year. Which was really unnerving, because having been scuba diving, the rift feels just like wearing an (eye) mask, but without a regulator/mouth piece for breathing into.

Scuba diving is an equipment intensive sport, and my concern is PS4 will end up the same way: Needing a VR headset, Eye camera, controller, TV, big heavy PS4 base unit, it all becomes a very involved process just to play a game. There's not much for people who just want to go snorkelling in the shallows. I.e. PS4 becomes a gamer's console, just focused on the hardcore end of the market. Which is perfectly viable, just not really very interesting, and certainly not 'the future of gaming' that VR has lately been touted as.
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James Boulton Owner, Retro HQ Ltd5 years ago
@Christopher The motion sickness, or "simulator sickness" with VR is astonishingly bad! The only people I have not seen suffer with it are my two young kids who are both under 6. Their brains don't to have an issue with in. However its quite possible to train your brain to accept it by "pushing through" or gradual increased exposure. It's a bit hardcore, though... :o)

I've also seen reports than the VR headsets are better for yours eyes than monitors as you don't focus on s single point, but rather your eyes are both being worked independently and focussed off toward infinity. So in theory VR headsets should reduce eye strain.

I don't have a problem with the feeling of wearing a mask -- I found I forgot about that very quickly, and the units are only going to get smaller and lighter. But the stomach churning feeling you get when you move around within the virtual world without moving in the real world is quite awesome (in a bad way).

But you can't get away from the immersion it gives you. Just a completely different experience.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Boulton on 19th March 2014 2:09pm

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James Brightman Editor, North America, GamesIndustry.biz5 years ago
I have spent some time playing Oculus demos and so far I haven't felt any motion sickness. Very excited for the VR tech to finally go mainstream.
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd5 years ago
I'm extremely cautious on pricing. As much as I love my PS4 Sony has a history of pretty serious pricing problems with technology. I could definitely see them asking $400 for this.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 5 years ago
The Oculus Rift seasickness edition polled data at 240Hz, which is why an argument was made for 1000Hz. I assume, Sony mentioning this figure in their product reveal is for the same reason.

The Playstation camera is able to run 240Hz, but only at a resolution of 320x192 as far as I know. Which is not a lot of pixels to determine the orientation of the device in a typical living room setup.

To be fair, we do not know the rate at which the OR camera tracking will poll its data. It might be less than Sony, it might be more. In any case, it is not a good thing if some motions are polled at 1000Hz, while other are polled at a lower rate. We already know that some people do get sea sick and they still would with these models, if they performed certain actions. You'd end up in a weird place, where you restrict yourself not to do something in an effort to prevent the motion sickness.

Then again, I am not affected, so the sooner the better :D
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Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises5 years ago
I'm excited about their VR headset, and really happy to see Unity and EPIC are supporting it. That means we might actually get some games for it, and it won't be another piece of cool hardware with no games (like Kinect, Wii U's gamepad, or PS Vita).
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Lewis Brown Snr Sourcer/Recruiter, Electronic Arts5 years ago
I must try some VR soon I don't really suffer motion sickness from anything, track days in Cars n Bikes, boats etc....I so hope it takes off and delivers the goods, fingers crossed!
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Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd5 years ago
@Klaus Isn't the camera just tracking for displacement of the headset in the world? So it doesn't need to update as fast as the onboard sensors. I'm sure that sufficiently rapid and erratic movement will still trip it up, but it should be miles ahead of the old OR kit which didn't factor in displacement at all.

(At least I hope so, as a seasickness sufferer ;)
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Christopher Ingram Editor-at-Large, Digitally Downloaded5 years ago
@James Thanks for the additional info!

I'm not one that's prone to motion sickness at all. I've spent time on boats in the deep sea, ride motorcycles at high speeds and in my younger days tried to push my body to the limits in any "extreme" way that I possibly could. I also free dive and spear fish, so I have no issues with wearing a mask.

I'm merely curious if these happenings will cause an issue with these (almost sure to be expensive) devices' attachment rates once they land on the market. Of course, I hope not - the technology is incredible - but I'm just looking forward on a more industry-minded thought line, instead of fan.

Speaking of "pushing through" though, I found that continued use of the 3DS with the 3D effect on had the exact same outcome. I regularly use my 3DS with the effect enabled, without issue. As for the reduced eye strain, that's most definitely a plus, in my opinion.
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Andrew Jakobs Lead Programmer 5 years ago
Just pre-ordered the Oculus Rift DK2, but I do hope Sony won't be as daft as only supporting the PS4 with their HMD, it should also be able to be used with a PC (without some community having to write their own hack drivers). It's something I'm still wondering why they haven't just created regular PC drivers for their dualshock's and Move/navigator controllers, as they sell them with a profit, so with real PC support they would even sell more of them..
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Now we see the PS Move, and the performance of the PS4 used to prove VR presence... and if it dose not work, will the PS4 concede that PC is best?
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 5 years ago
I don't see any reason that the response time with the camera tracking the headset wouldn't be just as good (and just as accurate) as the Move controllers, which are extremely responsive. I think it's a really smart move to use their existing tracking technology. It's proven, it's reasonably cheap, and it works very well. And beyond that, it makes a lot of sense to want to use the Move controllers with a VR headset anyway. That avoids the issues with how one moves (or doesn't move) the aiming point when you move your head, but not the aiming stick. I think it would feel a lot more connected. (Using the Move with an FPS on a regular screen doesn't actually work that well. I love the accuracy, but dealing with looking around being independent from aim is awkward--exactly in the way it ought not to be on a VR headset.)
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