Dominic Mallinson, the senior vice president of R&D at Sony, may have hinted at what we can expect from the next PlayStation VR headset during a speech at Collision 2019 in Toronto earlier this week. In addition to hinting that the Japanese giant will continue to invest in virtual reality into the next generation and beyond, he also outlined the kind of features we can expect from the next round of devices.
These improvements, he explained, can be divided into two categories: evolutionary and revolutionary. In terms of the former, Mallinson touched upon resolution, which he believes will be doubled in future headsets. He also talked about field-of-view, which he expects to increase from about 100-degrees to 120-degrees, and high-dynamic range. “The human eye sees an enormous range of light from bright sunlight to deep shadow,” he said. “Today’s VR panels only capture a tiny fraction of that. So in order to increase the sense of presence, I do expect to see HDR adopted in the near future.”
And then he described some of the more revolutionary improvements, including gaze tracking. This effectively will enable the headset to read where you’re looking, opening up new possibilities from both a gameplay and user interface perspective. For example, you may be able to select menu items simply by looking at them – or in-game characters could be able to respond to what you’re staring at.
The fascinating thing about gaze tracking, according to Mallinson, is that it also enables the possibility of foveated rendering. “More pixels needs more rendering performance,” he noted. “If you just brute force it, it requires a lot of extra rendering performance. The human eye has a part in the retina called the fovea, which is responsible for our super-sharp vision. We don’t see very much in the peripheral vision. So if we can match our rendering performance to the fovea, we can deliver higher effective resolutions, and also better quality images.”
And then there’s the small matter of wireless headsets. The executive admitted that the current PSVR setup is far from ideal, and that the dream would be to remove the cables entirely. Unfortunately, this comes at an ergonomic cost as you have to wear a battery on your head, and also despite improvements to wireless transmission, there are performance restrictions, too. Mallinson insinuated that the first step is to reduce the number of wires required entirely, but he did suggest in a later interview with Venture Beat that Sony could offer multiple models at different price points.
“It’s certainly an option,” he told the aforementioned site. “I talked about wireless, for example. That’s one easy way to do it. Here’s a wired headset. You can take the wire and replace it with wireless. And then you can have a range. So you can have an introductory model and a high-end model. That’s something we’ve done with the PS4. We could do that with PSVR.”
It really sounds like the Japanese giant is in the right place with regards to its future virtual reality plans, and we simply can’t wait to see what kind of headset it cooks up for its next-gen console. As it stands, PSVR is an amazing experience – but we’ve always been pretty clear about the fact that it’s a first attempt, and there many “easy” improvements that could be made to enhance the overall experience. Let’s hope it’s got some new motion controllers in the pipeline, too.