PlayStation VR Competing with the big boys
Sony has made headlines this afternoon during their keynote at the 2016 Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, unveiling the price, release date, and technical specs of their highly anticipated PlayStation VR headset. With headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift hitting the streets over these next couple of months, virtual reality is a hot topic, and Sony’s announcement couldn’t have come at a better time.
PlayStation VR headsets will be made available during October of 2016, and it will retail at $399 USD. This
makes Sony’s headset one of the most inexpensive on the market — much cheaper than the $800 Vive and the $600 Oculus Rift. It’s releasing at a slightly later date, however. Vive headsets will be shipping out in a few weeks, and Rift preorders should have been all pushed out by July. It’s interesting that Sony has chosen to announce this information at GDC, as many were anticipating for a price and release date to remain unannounced until this year’s E3 in June. It’s possible, though, that Sony is trying to win over people who haven’t preordered a headset from Oculus or HTC.
Regardless of their motive, there’s a lot for PlayStation fans to be excited about with this announcement. Let’s take a look at the technical details that Sony has announced.
PlayStation VR : Specs and details
Although we didn’t actually learn a whole lot of brand new information, Sony ended up confirming a lot of stuff that we already suspected. The headset will feature a 5.7″ OLED display, with a resolution of 1920 x RGB x 1080, or 960 x RGB x 1080 per eye. This is a somewhat disappointing figure, but Sony makes up for it with their refresh rate, with PlayStation VR capable of displaying up to 120 frames per second. The headset displays with a field of view of about 100 degrees. For reference, most standard HD first-person shooters display at 90 degrees.
The headset will feature nine LEDs for 360-degree head tracking, with very little input lag — Sony claims the
headset will see latency of less than 18ms. Sony also confirmed that the headset would be controlled via their standard Dualshock 4 controller, or via PS Move. It’s assumed that the PS Move camera will be used with the light-up PS Move controller to offer some degree of “walk around” VR play, although it’s still unknown as to how comprehensive that experience would be. It’s also worth mentioning that the headset will NOT come with either of these controllers. So, if you don’t have a Move already, now would be a good time to find one.
Sony also talked about how PlayStation VR can be used. They reported that around 50 games will be available for use with the headset this year, which is encouraging. Most notably, they also talked about “cinematic mode”, which would enable users to play non-VR games and watch movies from their headset. This is a really cool feature, basically letting you have your own personal theater contained within a single headset, and I know that it’s something that Sony fans have been hoping for out of this headset.
How does it stack up?
So, PlayStation VR sounds pretty cool. It’s affordable, it’s accessible, and it seems to be a relatively mid-tier virtual reality experience. How does it measure up to its competitors? Pretty well, I think. Sony’s biggest talking point during this keynote was that PlayStation VR was capable of becoming one of the most mainstream headsets on the market, and I’m inclined to agree. As promised, the headset only costs about as much as a console, which means that it’s mostly within financial reach for most households. Plus, PlayStation VR is fully compatible with the PlayStation — you don’t need an $800 PC to hook it up to.
However, you’re still getting a virtual reality experience that, while good, isn’t nearly as rich as you would get out of the Vive. You’re getting what you pay for, which is a slightly lower per-eye resolution, presumably less robust room tracking capabilities, and a library of supported games that is much smaller than the Rift’s. However, there are still a few things that we don’t know about PlayStation VR yet. I think final judgement should be withheld at least until Sony’s E3 conference, where we’ll probably learn a little bit more about this product. With what we know so far, though, I think PlayStation VR is looking to be the virtual reality industry’s dark horse this year.