Last week, Sony updated the world on Project Morpheus, its virtual reality headset for PlayStation 4. The near final version revealed had a number of impressive updates including a higher resolution display, a refresh rate that’s almost double the refresh rate of the Oculus Rift DK2, and the ability to play games at 120 FPS (frames per second). The final version was announced for launch in the first half of 2016.
I’ve had a fascination with Virtual Reality for sometime, even going as far as attending various events held by VR enthusiasts around New York City. There’s a ridiculous amount of hype surrounding this up and coming medium. There’s no guarantee of its success, but why wouldn’t it succeed? It’s the most immersive medium to ever be created. Every VR developer I’ve talked to has a great interest in putting their content on as many platforms as possible, including PlayStation 4 with Morpheus.
Right now, there are a few key players in the VR industry who are all doing similar things. If we split these efforts across three categories, there’s mobile VR (for smartphones), VR for game consoles (Morpheus), and VR headsets designed for PCs, which are more open.
Let’s talk about each one of them briefly:
While the Oculus is impressive and can change the media landscape forever, the Oculus Rift headset, along with any VR headsets for the PC, will most likely be a niche product.
I have tried running an Oculus Rift on my MacBook Pro, which I bought less than one year ago. VR games should be running at 60-70FPS to get that feeling of true realism. My MacBook could only run games at 30FPS and was overheating so badly that I had to unplug the headset after a period of time, for fear that my computer may explode.
I would imagine the average person has a computer comparable in specs to mine, with a 2.4 GHz dual core processor and 4GB of RAM. The Oculus Rift, and any VR headset for the PC, is really only going to appeal to enthusiasts and hardcore PC gamers. I’ve looked up the parts, and to build a computer that can run VR games and apps at their peak between now and a few years to come, you’re looking at spending almost $1000 for the bare minimum.
The coolest thing about VR on a PC is the ability to freely download other people’s games and creations in an open marketplace. You’re not confined to just a selection on an app store.
While it’s technically the least impressive, mobile VR has the ability to put you in another world and give a great VR experience. I’ve tried mobile VR apps using a Google Cardboard headset and an iPhone 6, and I love the experience.
Efforts like the Samsung Gear VR make that experience almost identical to any other headset, albeit running on a less capable device. Since the screen of the Galaxy Note 4 (the only phone that works with Gear VR) is above 1080, it has provided the best VR experience I’ve used to date, with games and apps looking even better than on an Oculus DK2.
Mobile VR has the best chance of making VR mainstream, especially since headsets can be priced at well under $100 due to all of the tech being in the phones. Mobile VR will be exciting to watch in the coming years, especially if you’re into Android devices, though Apple could always aid developers with VR solutions in the future.
By a large margin, Project Morpheus is the most consumer friendly VR experience as it stands. Even when assuming the consumer version of the Oculus Rift will have similar specs, the big difference is that the device is running only on PS4. Since the headset only works with one device, there’s no questioning how good a game will run as one might have to on a PC. Everything will just work, no questions asked.
At the end of the day, Sony can take Oculus’ thunder, especially since they beat them to the punch with a consumer launch window. All it comes down to is marketing, price, and software. If Sony makes it easy for developers to publish VR games, videos, and experiences, Morpheus can present itself as the one place people will want to go for VR.