PSVR PlayStation VR 1

Sony is eager to propel virtual reality into a new era, as it targets AAA content for its next-gen PSVR headset, which sounds both incredible and seriously expensive. As part of a developer presentation earlier in the week – which we can corroborate did take place – the Japanese giant introduced its new technology to major studios around the globe.

Many of the details coming out of the event have been reported before: the headset features Fresnel OLED screens (not Samsung) with 2000x2040 resolution per eye, although there is now talk of HDR, which should help with contrast and colour clarity. The field-of-view is 110-degrees – an increase of 10-degrees on the existing PSVR headset – and it has haptic feedback built in to help reduce motion sickness.

Research has proven that mapping a slight vibration to, for example, footsteps can “trick” the ear canal into thinking that you’re walking, which in turn can help to reduce that lurching feeling that’s common during virtual reality locomotion. Don’t expect the headset to buzz like crazy – this should be a more subtle feature to help ground you in the experience.

Perhaps most exciting is the continued talk of foveated rendering. This technology uses eye-tracking to detect where you’re looking and divert computational power to that part of the scene. The theory is that anything in your peripheral vision doesn’t need to be rendered at full resolution, thus reducing the strain on the PlayStation 5 hardware and allowing developers to squeeze more out of it.

There’s more, though: it looks like Sony is also using something called Flexible Scaling Resolution, which sounds a little bit like an upscaling solution – again, built with reducing resources while maintaining good image quality. Put all of this together – including the high-resolution, HDR screens – and in theory we should end up with much, much better looking games.

And here’s where it gets really exciting: perhaps recognising that the standalone Oculus Quest is now its primary competition, Sony seems to be targeting AAA content. Apparently, it wants to move away from the proof-of-concept “experiences” that were common on the original PSVR, and focus on full-blown games.

Interestingly, there’s chatter of it tasking its first-party developers with creating “hybrid” software – or, in other words, titles that can be played both traditionally on a television and in virtual reality, like Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. Whether this will pan out remains to be seen – it would take a lot of work to convert something like, say, The Last of Us: Part II to VR – but it’s certainly exciting if it can pull this off.

As we already know, the controllers – which will be bundled with the headset – will feature haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, but will also be able to sense the position of your thumb and index finger, presumably allowing you to grab things more authentically. It’s unclear whether the DualSense will be supported.

Perhaps the only downside is that, due to the enormous differences in technology, it sounds like there will be no backwards compatibility for existing PSVR games – although the company is pushing for remasters of some of the most popular releases. This isn’t massively surprising really, considering the controllers are completely different and the tracking technology no longer requires a camera.

The other concern, of course, is the price. This sounds seriously cutting edge, and while Sony will obviously be saving money by opting for a wired solution, bundling in the controllers is not going to be cheap. Further details are allegedly set to be revealed in early 2022, with a release presumably planned for later that year.

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