Sony tap­ping vir­tual re­al­ity with PlayS­ta­tion head­set

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

Sony is set to launch its new vir­tual re­al­ity head­set, join­ing Face­book, Sam­sung and Google in a market that an­a­lysts say could boost the global gam­ing sec­tor. The elec­tron­ics gi­antwhich has been lean­ing on its videogames business to claw back to prof­itabil­ity-will start sell­ing its PlayS­ta­tion vir­tual re­al­ity (PSVR) head­set on Thurs­day in home market Ja­pan and North Amer­ica.

Priced at $399, the head­set is sig­nif­i­cantly cheaper than ri­val of­fer­ings and Sony is hop­ing the gadget will fly off the shelves dur­ing the cru­cial hol­i­day sea­son. PlayS­ta­tion VR head­sets work with PS4 con­soles, more than 40 mil­lion of which have been sold glob­ally.

Dozens of soft­ware ti­tles for the de­vice are in the pipe­line, al­low­ing play­ers to fly like an ea­gle, drive sports cars in high-speed races, and ex­plore cas­tles. Gamers can also in­dulge in fantasy by flirt­ing with vir­tual fe­males thanks to in­creas­ingly re­al­is­tic VR tech­nol­ogy. But with bulky head­sets re­quired to im­merse play­ers in the ac­tion, vir­tual re­al­ity games with seg­ments last­ing just a few min­utes are cur­rently the norm.

De­vel­op­ers are try­ing to de­ter­mine how far they can ex­tend play with­out caus­ing fa­tigue or nau­sea. Sony has promised that more than 50 games will be avail­able for the PlayS­ta­tion VR within months of its launch, in­clud­ing zom­bieshooter “Res­i­dent Evil”, and games based on the “Star Wars” fran­chise.

Some of the first ti­tles al­ready in store are “Bat­man: Arkham VR” and “Un­til Dawn: Rush of Blood”, which early re­view­ers have said use the vir­tual re­al­ity head­set suc­cess­fully to in­crease the el­e­ment of sur­prise and fear for gamers.

Sony is get­ting a head start be­cause it has a well-es­tab­lished PlayS­ta­tion brand and the head­set works with con­soles al­ready sit­ting in mil­lions of homes, an­a­lysts said. Ear­lier this year, Face­book-owned Ocu­lus be­gan sell­ing its Rift vir­tual re­al­ity head­sets for $599, a price which does not in­clude the cost of a com­puter that can han­dle the pro­cess­ing and graph­ics de­mands of the tech­nol­ogy.

Tai­wan’s HTC set a price of $799 for Vive VR gear, which also re­quires com­puter sys­tems that can han­dle the rich ex­pe­ri­ence. Google has un­veiled its Day­dream View vir­tual re­al­ity head­gear that is com­pat­i­ble with smart­phones and a direct chal­lenge to Sam­sung Gear VR. Mi­crosoft an­nounced yes­ter­day that it was tak­ing pre­orders for its HoloLens-an aug­mented re­al­ity head­set it says will al­low users to in­ter­act with holo­grams-and would start ship­ping the de­vice in Novem­ber.

‘Dawn of vir­tual re­al­ity’

“This year is go­ing to to be the dawn of vir­tual re­al­ity games,” said Hiroshi Sakai, a se­nior an­a­lyst at SMBC Friend Re­search Cen­ter. “To­mor­row’s launch could sig­nal the day when VR be­comes more main­stream.” Sony has not re­leased global sales fore­casts for the head­sets.

The tech­nol­ogy, which is still un­fa­mil­iar to many con­sumers, will likely supplement the in­dus­try rather than trans­form it, Sakai said. “In­stead of be­ing a game-changer, VR is likely to give a boost to the gam­ing in­dus­try,” Sakai told AFP. Ac­cord­ing to an AFP re­porter who had tried the new head­set, it was light­weight and com­fort­able but com­pli­cated to in­stall with nu­mer­ous ca­bles that need to be hooked up to al­low it to work. It may be ini­tially con­fus­ing for gamers to adapt their play­ing style to vir­tual re­al­ity, the re­porter said, and users will also need to buy a PS4 cam­era, which is not pro­vided.

For Sony, the new head­set could be key to driv­ing the PlayS­ta­tion brand, which is es­sen­tial to its fi­nances as it re­cov­ers from years of losses largely tied to an ail­ing TV unit and con­sumer elec­tron­ics.

As Sony bat­tles to stay ahead of Mi­crosoft’s Xbox gam­ing con­sole, PS4 has seen the fastest and strong­est adop­tion since the first gen­er­a­tion of the con­sole was in­tro­duced more than 20 years ago.

“(PSVR) is likely to be a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor when you look at the big­ger pic­ture of Sony’s fu­ture business,” Sakai said. —AFP

TOKYO: A jour­nal­ist wear­ing a PlayS­ta­tion VR head-mounted dis­play play­ing a vir­tual re­al­ity game at Sony’s booth at the Tokyo Game Show 2016 in Chiba, in a sub­urb of Tokyo. —AFP

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