I’ve been thinking about PSVR a lot lately. I loved the original headset, and I’m very proud of how Push Square – in my probably biased opinion – had some of the best virtual reality coverage online at the time. I’ll readily admit that I’ve dropped off a lot since the PlayStation 5 came out – that spaghetti of cables eventually became a roadblock I couldn’t overcome – but Sony’s next-gen virtual reality device has me feeling the same butterflies of excitement I experienced prior to the original unit.
I think virtual reality is in a slightly different position these days: more people have experienced it and understand its potential. There was understandable scepticism when the first headset released; I think that’s mostly eroded now. Products like Oculus Quest have proven that VR can be an additive experience; it’s not here to take away traditional pancake play, but to supplement it with unique software that simply can’t be done on a standard screen. The possibilities are endless.
Which brings me to next-gen PSVR: I think, even at the time of the original headset’s release, I was aware that it was a rudimentary attempt at the technology. Sony did a great job repurposing old hardware like its PS Move controllers to bring costs down, but despite delivering some genuinely jaw-dropping software – like Astro Bot Rescue Mission and Blood & Truth – I think everyone knew where the medium could go with time.
One of the reasons I love video games is because it’s the perfect intersection between technology and entertainment. And I’ve always appreciated PlayStation’s ability to bring bleeding edge innovations to the general consumer. Sony doesn’t necessarily make the absolute best hardware on the planet, but what it does very well is design products that are affordable yet still forward-facing and future-proof. I’m confident its next-gen PSVR headset will further this philosophy.
And I’m really excited to see where that takes us. A report published overnight seemingly revealed key features from the platform holder’s new headset, including haptic feedback, 4K resolution, and foveated rendering. When paired with the new pads – which include a form of finger tracking, as well as the adaptive triggers from the DualSense – we’re looking at a true generational leap here. The sense of presence and ease of setup is guaranteed to be a game-changer.
Foveated rendering, in particular, could be transformative. The idea is that the headset can track where you’re looking, meaning that it can render objects within your gaze in higher detail. This means that computational power can be saved, as objects in your peripheral vision don’t need to be displayed at their best because the hardware knows you’re not looking at them anyway. It’s easy to imagine how this technology, paired with the PS5’s SSD, could work wonders for VR presentation.
And I do think the hardware of the PS5 itself is a key part of the puzzle here. The SSD, which we’ve talked about lots in pancake play, is going to be transformative in virtual reality worlds; loading was a big issue in Marvel’s Iron Man VR, for example, breaking the immersion immensely – but it’d be non-existent on Sony’s new console. The new Tempest audio engine, as well, with its 3D positional sound is really going to significantly enhance the immersion in virtual reality.
You put these things together, and pair it with the improved resolution of the headset and controllers that will have all of the features of the DualSense but actually be properly tracked, and I think it’s hard not to be excited. Research shows that haptic feedback in VR headsets can be used to reduce motion sickness by providing meaningful feedback when you move, but also consider how developers will be able to program raindrops falling on your head and pair all of that with the aforementioned 3D audio.
Lately I’ve been playing games and imagining what they’d be like in virtual reality. I found exploring the underwater world of Subnautica: Below Zero refreshing and unique in a recent review, for example – but that exact same game in virtual reality would be transformative. The sense of discovery is awesome on a traditional screen, but just existing within that space in VR would take it to the next level: it’d be magical and haunting all at the same time – escapism at its finest.
And this is what I mean about video games being the perfect intersection between technology and entertainment. I personally play games because I enjoy the escapism aspect they provide: it allows me to be someone else, temporarily, and experience things I otherwise can’t. In a year where we’ve all been forced to stay at home, games are the medium which have allowed me to travel to new worlds all from the confines of my living room.
I think virtual reality takes that immersion to the next level, and with its new PSVR headset, it sounds like Sony is removing many – if not all – of the barriers that existed with the first iteration. I’m sure there will be caveats and drawbacks – this still needs to be an affordable commercial product, of course – but I’m beginning to dream all over again. The product that PlayStation appears to have in the pipeline sounds like a significant step up, and I simply can’t wait to experience it for myself.
How do you feel about next-gen PSVR at this moment in time? Are you hyped for the headset, or merely cautiously optimistic? Do you think Sony is wasting its time on the technology? Let us know in the comments section below.