We knew all about Project Morpheus prior to its announcement at the Game Developers Conference yesterday. Sony hadn’t openly acknowledged the virtual reality headset, of course, but many of the details regarding it had already leaked out. Those rumours turned out to be true, as the peripheral is pretty much exactly what we expected: an Oculus Rift-esque head tracking device based upon the same technology in the PlayStation Move. However, up until today, we had no idea whether it would actually work.
Fortunately, the platform holder has allowed parts of the press to get some hands-on time with the accessory at the industry focused event today, and the impressions are overwhelmingly positive. It’s clear that the unit’s still some time away from release – the manufacturer has confirmed that it won’t deploy this year – but the consensus appears to suggest that it’s nailed the basics, even if there are a few caveats at the moment. Indeed, a report on Polygon points out that the firm may very well be onto something special.
So, what are the downsides at this point in time? According to almost all of the reports that we read, the unit’s field of view seems to be a bit of a sticking point, as you end up seeing black borders in your peripheral vision. When coupled with some minor light bleed that occurs under the screen, that can break the unit’s sense of immersion somewhat. Fortunately, these are issues that can be solved by tweaking the design of the device, and perhaps messing around with a different screen. In truth, they’re probably already on the company’s to-do list.
The other major issues appear to stem from the PlayStation Move controller, rather than the headset itself. One demo sees you messing around in a medieval sandbox, using two motion wands to control swords and other objects. This appears to operate like legendary downloadable puzzler Tumble, but several reports mention that the calibration on the controllers can easily glitch – again, breaking that all important sense of place. Apparently, the head tracking is susceptible to drifting slightly as well, but for the most part it works fine.
And that appears to be the overarching message at the moment: Project Morpheus does pretty much exactly what the manufacturer’s promised. There are even some unexpected surprises, such as the inclusion of fully body tracking in London Studio’s underwater demo The Deep, which sees your virtual avatar bend their knees when you crouch in the real world. All of the Sony demos are running on PS4 hardware at 60 frames-per-second, and the latter is apparently quite visually impressive. Is anyone else dreaming of an Aquanaut’s Holiday sequel?
It’s so far so good, then, but there are still a handful of issues for the PlayStation maker to solve. Fortunately, it has at least another year to perfect the technology, and it really doesn’t seem like there are any glaring issues to add to its fix list. We suspect that the real challenge will be getting developers and publishers on board, and making sure that the setup's cheap enough for the average console gamer to afford. Seeing as Sony has made a habit out of surprising us time and time again since the PS4’s unveiling last February, we’re certainly not counting the firm out just yet.