Considering how successful Oculus VR’s Rift headset has been in its short stint on this earth, it’s surprising no other companies tried to come in and steal its thunder. Well finally, early this year, Sony tried to just that with the announcement of Project Morpheus, a much more polished looking (aesthetically) product, that combines motion tracking, an HD display and even hand tracking through Move Motion controllers. The fact that it’s going to be compatible with the PS4 is a big selling point too.
The question is, is it any good?
Like the new Rift Devkit 2 headset, Project Morpheus features a 1080p HD display, which goes a long way to eliminating the screen door effect that was so prevalent in Oculus’ first devkit. It’s made using LCD technology, and has a 90 degree viewing angle. As you would expect there’s accelerometers and a gyroscope built in so there’s full head tracking support and with the use of a PlayStation eye camera, full motion tracking too, so as well as being able to tilt and turn, you can move up, down, left right and back and forward. This allows for in-game leaning over ledges and round corners in a very realistic – and perhaps more importantly, non-nauseating – manner.
One big change up Morpheus makes over Oculus’ trendsetting design, was in the aesthetics of the headset itself. This headset looks far more consumer ready, even though it has a lot of developing still to go through, with fancy blue LEDs mounted in the corners, and a swish black and silver design.
A quick look at the picture will also show you the curiously designed headband/rest, which holds the whole affair on your head. This accomodates a Morpheus headset, which is specifically designed with VR in mind and offers unprecedented levels of surround sound audio. Sony postulates that it emulates the sound of 60 separate speakers within its confined earcups.
The Move Motion works in a similar fashion to Razer’s third party Hydra controllers, giving players not only motion tracked hands and wrists, but also the ability to grasp things with their real hands, in the virtual world. For full functionality you’ll want a set of those, the Eye Camera and a PlayStation, making the Morpheus’ future pricing for a full experience, far from cheap.
We don’t know what Project Morpheus will cost yet, as it’s still quite a long way off from commercial release and it’s unlikely Sony will do a public developer kit like Oculus has. In actuality it’ll keep it internal, giving out free hardware to select developers that’ll be willing to make PlayStation exclusives. However, Sony does have a history of selling its hardware at a loss, so potentially Morpheus could be cheaper than Oculus’ Rift, especially if it sticks with using the cheaper and older technology in its LCD display.
As impressive as Sony’s early Morpheus demos have been, it’s not quite up to the Rift Devkit 2’s standards. The display isn’t as vibrant and doesn’t eliminate motion blur as well. There’s also still the same screen door pixellation we’ve seen on other VR headsets, though not to the same extent because this one does have an HD screen in it. Unfortunately Sony’s offering is also strangely restricted, since the screen only features a 90 degree viewing angle (vs Oculus’ 120) and has a gap around your nose so you can check you’re still there if needs be. While this might be good for VR noobies, Sony needs to fix that if it ever wants to get the level of immersion we’ve seen elsewhere.
The fact that it’s limited to the PS4 is a shame, but does mean there’s a big audience ready and waiting for this sort of hardware. The entry cost could also be pretty hectic, considering you’ll need an Eye camera, as well as the PS4 and a move motion if you want the full package – though headphones will be included at least.
As it stands, while it’s good to see a competitor to the Oculus Rift, Sony’s Morpheus isn’t quite as impressive. However with Sony money behind it, chances are it’ll turn into something special over the next year and with PlayStation features driving it, we could see some very exciting things from from the company’s VR labs. This one’s a wait-and-see.