Sony has revealed a new edition of its virtual reality helmet Morpheus, which it says it plans to put on sale in 2016.
The new edition of Project Morpheus now features an OLED display, rather than an LCD one, letting it show more vibrant colors. That brings it in line with Facebook’s rival Oculus Rift.
The new virtual reality (VR) helmet is also capable of showing graphics at 120 frames per second (fps).
That beats the figure given by HTC for its recently unveiled Vive VR headset.
The frame rate is important as the higher the number, the smoother moving objects appear. It also reduces the risk of nausea.
HTC said on March 1 that its helmet provided a refresh rate of 90fps.
Oculus has not confirmed its specifications, but recent demonstrations of the recent Crescent Bay version of its kit have also been reported to run at 90fps.
Sony’s announcement is a surprise, because until now, the PlayStation console – which Morpheus depends on to play games – had not been thought to be able to render games at this rate.
However, speaking at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, PlayStation executive Shuhei Yoshida revealed that a software update would allow the machine to create an “in-between frame” to double its current maximum of 60fps.
“Higher frame rates are definitely important because they are going to translate into higher responsiveness of the gaming environment,” explained Brian Blau, an analyst at the Gartner tech consultancy who previously worked in the virtual reality industry.
“That’s going to mean people who are wearing the device aren’t going to feel as sick. 120fps approaches the range where you don’t notice the changes in the graphics – they will be smooth and fluid.”
Other details revealed at GDC include:
Morpheus now has a 0.018 second latency rate – the gap in time between the user moving their head and the headset responding. It was previously 0.04 seconds. Shuhei Yoshida suggested this meant the lag had now become imperceptible
The headset’s screen is now 5.7in – up from 5in before – and provides a 100-degree field of view, which should cover most of what the user sees
The number of LEDs used to track head movement has been increased from six to nine. Sony says this will improve the stability of the 360-degree tracking provided by its separate PS4 camera
A quick-release button has been added to make it easier for users to remove the headset
The screen resolution remains at 1080p high definition, providing 960 pixels by 1080 pixels per eye.
Shushei Yoshida said the current version was “near final”, suggesting there were further improvements to be made before it goes on sale, which is scheduled to happen within the first six months of 2016.
He added that more details would be unveiled at the E3 video games expo in June.
The release date is later than that of HTC’s Vive headset – a collaboration with video games publisher Valve – that is set to launch before the end of this year.
HTC’s kit is expected to be designed for games sold via Steam’s PC-focused Steam online marketplace, meaning it may not directly compete with Sony’s machine. PCs can generate higher quality moving images than the PS4 if fitted with special graphics cards.
Valve also released more details about how its VR system would work.
It said a tracking-system called Lighthouse would let users explore a virtual space and the objects within it from different angles by moving about in real life.
“In order to have a high quality VR experience, you need high-resolution, high-speed tracking,” said Valve’s Alan Yates in a statement released by HTC.
“Lighthouse gives us the ability to do this for an arbitrary number of targets at a low enough bill-of-materials cost that it can be incorporated into TVs, monitors, headsets, input devices, or mobile devices.”
HTC said it would allow manufacturers to build Lighthouse into their products without charging them a fee.
It also announced the Source 2 games engine – software used to create video games with 3D graphics – which it is making available to third-party developers.
The original version, which is 10 years old, was used to make games including Half-life 2, Portal and Titanfall.
Valve may provide more details about its VR platform later this week when selected GDC attendees will be among the first to try out the HTC Vive.
Oculus has yet to set a release date for its PC-connected virtual reality helmet.
However, Samsung already sells Oculus-branded VR kit that uses its smartphones as screens.
“I think 2015 and 2016 are going to be seminal years for VR,” said Sony’s Brian Blau.
“There’s a lot of products coming to market, which is going to mean consumers get to experience it in a way they haven’t been able to do before: at home and in high quality.
“Here at GDC, there are a lot of developers who are interested in VR.
“But the big issue is, will the helmets be affordable or expensive. The early adopters will probably pick one up and pay whatever price is asked, but a higher price will limit sales for mainstream gamers.”
Sony has announced the launch dates for its PlayStation 4 console: the next-generation games machine will become available in North America on November 15 and Europe on November 29.
Its rival Microsoft has only said that the Xbox One will go on sale some time the same month.
Experts suggested that the latest revelation might help gain the Japanese firm headlines, but that it would be software that ultimately decided which company came out on top.
“Sony has made fantastic progress as it prepares to release the PS4, but the console still lacks a show-stopping exclusive game,” said Rob Crossley, associate editor at the Computer and Video Games news site, following the announcement at the Gamescom trade fair in Cologne.
“That will certainly come eventually, but some might argue the most crucial time is now.
“Sony’s press conference once again demonstrated the company has an enviably deep and meaningful relationship with the indie developer community… but Sony executives will no doubt be feeling uneasy as the list of major Xbox One exclusive games continues to grow.”
Lewis Ward, a games expert at the consultants IDC, agreed that at this point the launch date was of limited importance.
Sony has announced the launch dates for its PlayStation 4 console
“If it turns out that the PS4 goes on sale a week before the Xbox One, for example, then clearly Sony will have time to itself to make some hay,” he said.
“But until we know when Microsoft is going to land I’m not sure what putting the date out there does much beyond making a news story – it won’t change people’s buying intentions.”
Sony said there had already been more than one million pre-orders of its new console worldwide. It added that a total of 32 countries would be able to buy the PS4 during the Christmas holiday season.
Previously unannounced PS4 titles unveiled in Germany included:
Shadow of the Beast – a reboot of the 1980s Commodore Amiga title – as a Sony exclusive
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, a post-apocalyptic game from the UK-based developers of cult title Dear Esther
Minecraft, the landscape-building title which has already been a hit on the Xbox 360 and PCs
Sony also announced a price cut to its handheld console, the PlayStation Vita.
It said the “Wi-Fi only” version of the device would now cost $199 excluding tax – a $50 reduction. It also promised cheaper memory cards.
Similar cuts are being made in Europe after the machine’s price was reduced earlier in the year in Japan.
“The handheld business has not been performing well, but I think a $50 cut will push up Vita sales significantly,” said Lewis Ward.
“But the real driver over the long term will be must-have games and the choice is still thinner than some consumers would want.”
Sony has announced its forthcoming PlayStation 4 will cost $399, which is $100 less than the competing Xbox One.
PlayStation 4 will cost 399 euros in Europe and £349 in UK.
“The gaming landscape is changing with new business models and new ways to play,” said Andrew House, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment.
The price announcement wasn’t the only shot fired at Microsoft during Sony’s presentation at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the gambling industry’s annual U.S. trade show.
The loudest applause at the company’s event show came when Jack Tretton, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, announced that the company would not try to restrict used game sales.
Jack Tretton also said the PS4 would not require a persistent online connection.
“PlayStation 4 disc-based games don’t need to be connected online to play or any type of authentication,” said Jack Tretton.
“If you enjoy playing single-player games offline, PS4 won’t require to you check in online period and it won’t stop working if you haven’t authenticated in 24 hours.”
Microsoft has been criticized for its vague statements about whether it will allow buyers of its Xbox One to play secondhand software, as well as its requirement that the new console be connected to the Internet at least once every 24 hours.
Beyond those issues, Sony gave potential PS4 buyers plenty of games to look forward to later this year.
Sony has announced its forthcoming PlayStation 4 will cost $399, which is $100 less than the competing Xbox One
The company’s Santa Monica Studios, the developer of the God of War franchise, introduced the steampunk thriller The Order: 1866. Quantic Dream, the French studio behind Heavy Rain and the upcoming Beyond: Two Souls, provided a comical glimpse at the fantasy The Dark Sorcerer.
Shu Yoshida, president of Sony Worldwide Studios, said the company’s studios have more than 30 PS4 games in development, including 12 brand new intellectual properties.
Sony also showed new footage from previously announced PS4 games like the superhero adventure InFamous: Second Son, the auto racing simulator Drive Club and the sci-fi shooter Killzone: Shadow Fall.
Several third-party developers also debuted next-generation titles at Sony’s event.
Bungie, the creator of the blockbuster Xbox series Halo, showed the first in-game footage of its highly anticipated first-person shooter Destiny. Warner Bros. showed a clip from a new Mad Max game, while Square-Enix announced the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts III and Final Fantasy XV. Overall, Jack Tretton said, more than 140 PS4 titles are in the pipeline.
That includes an assortment of games from smaller, independent developers, which Sony featured onstage next to giant publishers like Activision and Ubisoft.
The processing chips in the PS4 are similar to those in PCs rather than the complex, idiosyncratic “Cell” architecture used in the PS3. That should make it easier for developers of all sizes to build games for Sony’s new console.
Like Microsoft, Sony is betting big on social networking features. The new version of its DualShock controller includes a ‘share’ button that allows you to post gameplay footage and screenshots.
Friends can watch as you play a game, and you’ll even be able to let a pal take control of your game from afar if you can’t get past a tough battle.
The controller also includes a touchpad and a Move motion sensor that works with a camera placed near the TV set.
The PS4’s main features include:
New DualShock 4 controller with built in touchpad
Dramatically improved graphics and processing power
Based on same X86 chips used in desktop computer to help game developers
3D camera that can track the controller, and the player
Games can also be played on Sony’s Vita handheld console
PlayStation 4, Sony next-generation gaming console, has been announced at an event in New York.
PlayStation 4 (PS4) new hardware is designed to offer superior graphics as well as new social features including the sharing of recorded gameplay clips.
The new console will succeed the PlayStation 3, which went on sale in 2006 and has sold about 75 million units.
The PS4 will eventually compete against Microsoft’s still-to-be-unveiled Xbox 360 successor and Nintendo’s Wii U.
Sony also confirmed a range of big-name software for the machine including Bungie’s upcoming “shared-world shooter” Destiny, which will include exclusive content for the PS4.
The developer’s previous title, Halo, helped drive sales for the rival Xbox platform.
A successful launch might spur on sales of Sony’s new televisions and other consumer electronics, helping turn around its fortunes.
Sony posted a 456.7 billion yen loss ($4.9 billion) in its last financial year, marking the fourth year it ended in deficit.
But the firm has forecast a 20 billion yen profit for the current financial year ending in March.
Sony said the console was “coming holiday 2013” suggesting it will go on sale in at least some countries in or around December.
It did not give any indication of its price nor did it show what the console would look like.
There was also no mention of whether the console would support 4K – or ultra-high definition – video.
Sony described the machine as being like a “supercharged” PC.
It runs off an x86-based CPU (central processing unit) – similar architecture to that found in most desktop computers – and an “enhanced” PC GPU (graphics processing unit). Both CPU and GPU are designed by the US firm Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).
It comes with the new DualShock 4 controller, which includes a touchpad, a “share button” and a lightbar, which allows a separate camera to track its movement.
“This is a complete controller upgrade with touch, share and better responsiveness,” said Brian Blau, an analyst at the tech consultancy Gartner.
“The new controller is the key to a better PS4 experience. It has the ability to share content easily, and brings in a component of touch that allows even more ways to interact with games.”
The console also includes new hardware dedicated to video compression to make it a more social device.
PlayStation 4, Sony next-generation gaming console, has been announced at an event in New York
Users will be able to pause a game, select a few minutes of recorded video of their most recent activity, and instruct the clip to be uploaded to a social network.
This will then occur in the background while they can return to their game. The firm said it wanted to make sharing video clips as common as it is today to share screenshots.
Another new feature is that gamers can let one of their friends connect to their machine and take control of their character to help if they have got stuck, or allow several friends to watch their live progress as spectators. This facility uses technology from Gaikai – a cloud-based service Sony acquired last year for $380 million.
Gaikai’s technology is also being used to allow PS4 games to be streamed and played via the PlayStation Vita handheld console, which may boost its sales.
Sony said it was also exploring the possibility of using its Gaikai unit to allow PlayStation 3 games to be played on the new machine as well as other devices.
However, at the moment PS3 games will not run on the new console.
Sony invited developers on stage to preview some of the PS4 games being worked on.
They included Killzone Shadowfall – an addition to its bestselling Killzone science fiction first-person shooter series; the racing game Driveclub; superhero game Infamous: Second Son; and Diablo 3.
Developer Ubisoft also confirmed that its much-discussed title WatchDogs, which involves a hacker taking control of a smart city’s systems, is indeed being developed for the PS4.
Jim Ryan, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, said his firm’s shift to an x86-based processor would make it easier for other developers to create games for the platform.
“One of the fundamental design principles was to make the PlayStation 4 considerably easier to develop for than some of its predecessor platforms,” he said.
“It is much more of a generic PC environment. It’s not a bespoke development environment as was very much the case with the PlayStation 3.
“So it’s something developers are aware of, are comfortable with and they don’t have to relearn the rules.”
While the graphics shown during the demonstrations were more advanced that those in current games for Nintendo’s Wii U, Sony must also convince gamers to choose its platform over PC-based systems.
PCs will be capable of offering increasingly impressive visuals as the PS4 ages thanks to their ability to have their processors and other hardware upgraded.
US firm Valve, in particular, has been vocal about its ambition to bring PC-based gaming to living room TVs.
Sony did not announce how much it plans to charge – perhaps holding the news back for the E3 gaming conference in Los Angeles in June or a later announcement.
The PlayStation 3 was initially sold at a loss, so if that practice is repeated with the new model its launch may initially put fresh strain on the firm’s finances.
Even so, one analyst suggested that Sony would be willing to take the pain to maximize early demand.
“Without the established user base and community of PS3 and PlayStation Network, Sony would be without a significant home entertainment foothold allowing it to connect many of its other consumer electronic devices, products and services,” said Piers Harding-Rolls, head of games at IHS Screen Digest.
“Sony’s next generation device is likely to take on more importance not less.”
The Japanese firm’s shares closed 1.8% lower in Tokyo trade following the announcement.