After hearing the crowd around me erupt with cheers and applause directed towards a PowerPoint slide containing the simple phrase "Virtual Reality," I could've sworn a wormhole opened up without warning and dumped me back to GDC 1994. Minutes later, my fears were assuaged by the smiling face of Sony Worldwide Studios' Shuhei Yoshida, who lifted a black sheet to unveil Project Morpheus, Sony's work-in-progress attempt to enter the burgeoning VR market.
Project Morpheus' sleek, futuristic (and not finalized) design is a far cry from the bulky, awkward VR machinery that served as a brief, expensive distraction in the early-to-mid '90s. Throughout the presentation ran the implicit message that VR can go awry when placed in the wrong hands, and Project Morpheus stands as Sony's attempt to show how this misunderstood technology can be a natural part of the PlayStation experience.
Much of Project Morpheus is still a mystery, including its technical specs, but Yoshida, along with Sony's Richard Marks and Anton Mikhalov, did his best to handle the baggage attached to the term "VR." When Marks took the stage, he emphasized the elements Sony intends to focus on with Project Morpheus: sight, sound, tracking, control, ease of use, and content. Anton Mikhalov later gave more detail about these qualities, all while stressing Morpheus' status as a medium rather than just a peripheral. And, frankly, the stats thrown out at tonight's presentation gave the impression that Sony wants Morpheus to make more waves than the Wii-inspired motion-control arms race that fizzled out at the end of the 2000s.
Project Morpheus features a 1080p display, a 1,000HZ refresh rate, 360 degrees of movement, and the ergonomic design necessary for something that could be stuck to your head for hours at a time. The only thing keeping Project Morpheus from seeming altogether revolutionary is the fact that, in its prototype form at least, the unit isn't wireless.
It's easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of seeing VR done right in the console space, especially with the Oculus Rift making so much traction in the PC world. But you only need to flash back a few years to remember how both PlayStation Move and the 360's Kinect promised to change our living rooms, when they mostly collected dust after the initial novelty faded. And, just like Sony's Move, Project Morpheus exists as a product you'll have to purchase separately, and while no price has been announced yet, it's easy to have some healthy skepticism about how much support this device will receive -- considering how much it could split the PS4's audience. It's still incredibly early though, so until Sony reveals more details, we can only look forward to a glorious future of video games mere centimeters from our faces.
After the announcement, Yoshida also hopped onto the PlayStation Blog to answer some questions about Project Morpheus. His answers to a few questions are below.
Is this the final name and product? How much will it cost?
This is a prototype, and we are not talking about our final product yet.
Are any other PlayStation peripherals required for Project Morpheus?
PlayStation Camera is required, PS Move is optional, depending on the title.
Will Project Morpheus still fit if you wear glasses?
I wear glasses and have no problem using this prototype head mount unit.
Will Project Morpheus have integrated audio?
The prototype comes with [headphones] and will work with your headphones, too.