At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco Tuesday night, Sony unveiled its latest vision for the future of video games: virtual-reality goggles. Code-named Project Morpheus, the PlayStation 4 VR system not only promises to immerse players in digital environments that occupy their entire field of view, it is also backward-compatible with Sony’s existing line of marketing clichés. “Nothing delivers a feeling of immersion better than _____,” Sony executive Shuhei Yoshida said, filling in the blank with “VR.” That marks a shift from the company’s keynote presentation at the 2011 E3 trade show, where executives filled in the blank with “3D televisions.”
While Sony showed off a futuristic headset during last night’s GDC presentation, the company was quick to note that the device is a prototype only, not a final product. But Project Morpheus’ talking points are further along in development, and Sony showcased a selection of them at yesterday’s event. (The Verge was kind enough to photograph them all.) “The experience is social,” reads one line, echoing the PlayStation 4 announcement event last year in which the word “social” was repeated so often that it lost all meaning. And Sony says that “emotion is amplified” by the goggles, presumably in a manner similar to the PlayStation 2’s so-called “Emotion Engine” processor.
Perhaps the most important claim about Sony’s VR headset is that “it is for everyone.” That signals Sony’s intent to bring Project Morpheus beyond hardcore game fans to a wide audience, just as three years ago, the company was “focused on broadening the 3D market to a new audience and offering an immersive experience to everyone.” (Sony’s 3D development efforts are currently immersed in a broom closet somewhere.)
Project Morpheus is unusual for a modern-day PlayStation add-on, however, because it is a cool-looking thing that many people might actually want. That sets it apart from other recent world-transforming, state-of-the-art-advancing innovations like the PlayStation Colored Light Sticks and Professor Sony’s Fantabulous Book Of Nothing. After all, virtual reality technology has inched forward since it made a gimmicky splash into the games industry during the early ’90s. Early impressions from people who have tried the latest Oculus Rift goggles—likely to be the main competitor for Project Morpheus—have been largely positive, even if the technology remains a work in progress. Plus, Sony says it has identified the main challenges with VR, like creating a realistic aural environment and preventing motion sickness, and company executives claim they have the expertise needed to address those problems.
“Virtual reality is the next innovation from PlayStation that may well shape the future of games,” Yoshida said at the GDC event. But if Project Morpheus doesn’t prove to be a success, it’s comforting to know that Sony will have another innovation that will shape the future of games in another year or so. [via Polygon]
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