Sony is bringing fully fledged virtual reality to the mass market – and changing PlayStation forever
There’s a photo of a Sony Walkman hanging on the wall outside of the room in which we’re watching
Takamasa Araki, director of Sony’s mechanical design department, disassemble a PlayStation VR headset. It’s a bright-yellow 1984 WM-F5 – a rugged splash-proof variant of the device that launched in 1979 – but it remains the elephant just outside of the room. The shadow of Sony’s radical creation looms over everything it does, especially when the company announces, in no uncertain terms, it intends to create another revolution.
“Sony is known for the Walkman, which changed the world,” says Masayasu Ito, EVP of hardware, engineering and operations. “And likewise we want to change the world of videogames.”
But while the Walkman introduced an entirely new form factor, offering an attractive alternative to the unwieldy devices that came before it, PSVR is entering a market that already boasts a range of VR headsets, including two established behemoths in Rift and Vive. We’ve already been introduced to HMDs, and we already understand motion controllers, so what’s left for PSVR to change? Quite a bit, it turns out.
“PlayStation has been around for 20-odd years, and we wanted to create a device that could offer a totally different, unique experience,” says Junpei Kura, vice president of the hardware design division charged with shaping PSVR at Sony. “But that new experience has to be comfortable, so it had to be hardware that could offer ease of use and comfort. So we started thinking about how that could be created. That was our vision.”
In this respect, Sony’s design team has succeeded emphatically. Donning the PSVR headset feels effortless compared to a Vive or Rift. Thanks to the device’s smartly designed adjustable headband, operated simply by pressing a button at the rear of the band to release the automatically retracting mechanism, there are no Velcro straps to locate and fiddle with while wearing a technologically advanced blindfold. Similarly, the fact that the display section slides back and forth, allowing you to push it towards or away from your face, makes it easy to use even if you’re wearing glasses. It’s an ingenious touch, and currently unique to Sony’s headset.
“SONY IS KNOWN FOR THE WALKMAN, WHICH CHANGED THE WORLD. AND LIKEWISE WE WANT TO CHANGE THE WORLD OF VIDEOGAMES”
Sony’s track record in consumer-electronics production helps to immediately distinguish PSVR against Rift and Vive. “We’re very keen on the beautiful design,” Ito says