Today, Sony embarks on its journey into the virtual world. The PlayStation VR headset will enable gamers all over the world to experience virtual reality. The headset costs $400. More than 50 games will be available before the end of 2016, says Sony. Here is what else you need to know.
PlayStation VR has landed
Sony has been testing virtual reality for some time under a project dubbed Morpheus and with today’s launch of PlayStation VR the company brings the first VR headset to a gaming console. Sony believes that its tight integration and strong game developer support will make PS VR the best VR headset for gaming.
PS VR looks like most other VR headsets. No company can escape the clumsiness of the hardware requirements to do VR today but Sony is hoping that gamers will embrace it regardless and are prepared to wear a headset, have an additional box, and a PS camera (required). If you are planning on playing VR in your living room certain games allow others to join the game on the regular TV screen.
A game called PlayRoom VR and a demo disc (list of demos here) are included with the purchase. Sony says that it expects approximately 50 VR games to be available before the end of 2016, and adds that there are “hundreds of developers currently working on games and experiences for PS VR”. Sony says that experiences beyond games such as storytelling will be available later. Look for the “PlayStation VR” logo depicted on the cover.
Launch titles include ‘Driveclub VR’, ‘RIGS Mechanized Combat League’, ‘Until Dawn: Rush of Blood’, ‘Batman Arkham VR’, ‘EVE Valkyrie’, and ‘Here They Lie’. Around 30 titles or so are available now.
Major titles like ‘Gran Turismo Sport’ and ‘Resident Evil 7’ are coming out later.
OLED makes VR possible
Like all other decent VR headsets Sony is using OLED display technology to reproduce the virtual frames. Only OLED display technology is fast enough to eliminate motion blur.
Sony says that “PS VR uses a single 5.7-inch 1920 x 1080 resolution full-color OLED RGB display, also known as ‘1920 x RGB x 1080’. Unlike other VR displays, the PS VR display uses full Red, Green and Blue sub-pixels to produce a full color pixel”. Games will be rendered at an effective resolution of maximum 960×1080 pixels in 3D.
When talking about real RGB pixels Sony is of course referring to the use of PenTile (or Diamond) subpixels in Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Samsung’s Galaxy phones that power the Gear VR headset. While competing headsets often boast the same or even higher resolution on paper the special subpixel arrangement reduces the effective resolution and can introduce picture artefacts. Some competing VR headsets have started using two displays instead of one. Our coming review will examine the differences in depth.
Sony adds that “latency comes in at less than 18ms (0.018 seconds)” and that “PS VR OLED display can refresh at 90Hz (90 times per second) or at 120Hz (120 times per second)”. It is using a “reprojection” system that “takes the last output image at 60Hz and creates a new image at 120Hz based on the latest head movements made by the user”.
FlatpanelsHD has already reviewed Gear VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive. We first tried PlayStation VR in September 2015 (when it was called Project Morpheus) and will publish a full, in-depth review later.
Other features and limitations
The headset also has a 2D mode that Sony describes like this: ”PS VR has a feature called Cinematic Mode, which lets users enjoy content in 2D, including PS4 games and movies, on a giant virtual screen while wearing the VR headset”. The Cinematic mode supports media apps such as YouTube.
A pretty crazy limitation that you have to be aware of is that the external processing unit – the extra box required to use PS VR – does not support HDR pass-through at any resolution (1080p or 4K). This means that if you want to use your PS4 console for HDR gaming on your regular TV you will have to cable the console directly to the TV every time you switch from VR to TV. This is an annoying flaw in the design of the box but it is of course early days for VR.
You can connect only one PS VR headset to a console. To use it you still need a TV “for certain system settings”, says Sony. A PlayStation VR-only setup is not yet possible. The headset works only with the PlayStation console, not a PC. For the best possible VR picture quality you need to pair the headset with the coming PS4 Pro but the headset also works with all current PS4 consoles.
PlayStation VR is available today. You also need the PS4 Camera that costs $59.