Sony's PlayStation VR set to launch next week
The world of virtual reality is hotting up and Sony will be the latest to compete if the company's upcoming PlayStation VR event next week turns out to be the official launch, as anticipated. The Japanese firm is hosting an invite-only event in San Francisco on 15 March, which is likely to feature the official launch of Sony's PlayStation VR, previously codenamed Project Morpheus.
The invitation is also in line with Sony's promise that its VR headset would go on sale in the 'first half of 2016' when its official name was revealed last September.
The event will be followed by 'hands-on' demos, suggesting there will be some new hardware on display for attendees to try out.
As far as we know, the PlayStation VR has a head-mounted display with 1080p HD resolution and a 90-degree field of view, while sensors built into the headset track head movements.
There's no official word on how much PlayStation VR will cost.
However, earlier this year, a listing on Amazon's Canada site appearing to have been posted by accident revealed the headset will cost $1,125 CAD, which converts to $800 USD or £770. The price was removed shortly after and Sony said in a statement: 'This was an error by Amazon, we haven't announced price for PlayStation VR.'
Iit is not clear if this means that the posting of the listing was an error, or the price shown on the listing was the mistake the statement refers to. Nevertheless, if true, that's over £200 than rival Oculus Rift's price tag.
Given the significant, £200 price difference between Oculus' and Sony's device, it suggests the latter may be targeting an even higher-end market, or it may come with a range of PS4 accessories bundled in.
It also goes against predictions made by analysts who expected the Sony version to be cheaper than Oculus' to appeal to a wider range of gamers, especially those who already use the PS4. Sony's chief executive Kaz Hirai said at Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January that it has more than 200 developers working on 100 new titles for the PlayStation VR. He said: 'I think the fact that we have more than 200 developers signed up to the PlayStation VR program who are working on probably more than 100 titles that will play on PlayStation VR, is a testament to the kind of support that we're getting from the content creation community on PlayStation VR.'
VR is one of the biggest trends in technology at the moment, with dozens of firms jumping on the bandwagon and developing VR headsets.
The most highly anticipated is Facebook's Oculus Rift, set for an April 2016 release. HTC and Valve announced plans to release its Vive VR system to consumers later this year. Google is also bolstering its Android support for VR and is developing a smartphone-based system to rival Gear VR, the Samsung-Oculus Rift collaboration.
PlayStation VR will directly compete with the likes of HTC Vive.
When pre-orders for the Vive system opened last week, the Taiwanese firm was selling 1,500 every minute, according to a developer on the project. Shen Ye, who works in HTC's VR team tweeted: ' Woah, more than 15k units in less than 10 min' with a surprised face emoji.'
The headset has a front-facing camera, redesigned headstrap, an improved visual system with brighter displays and costs £689 in the UK and $799 in the US.
Meanwhile, while the virtual reality (VR) industry continues to grow at an impressive rate, there's been little mention of how compatible the tech will be for children. Oculus VR and Samsung have set at 13+ age limit for using the Gear VR mobile-based headmounted display (HMD), and it's thought the former might also do the same for the upcoming Oculus Rift. Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE), however, has recently suggested that it will be setting an age limit just a little lower than this for its PlayStation VR HMD for PlayStation 4.
"Some people may experience motion sickness, nausea, disorientation, blurred vision or other discomfort while viewing the contents of the virtual reality. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop use immediately and remove the VR headset," the notes conclude.
It will be interesting to see if SCE provides any reasoning behind this age limit. There are many factors to consider in giving children VR experiences, both in terms of health and safety as well as suitability of content that's greatly enhanced by the medium. Some of the biggest moral panics of the past few decades have revolved around kids getting their hands on videogames that they aren't old enough to play and you can be sure that such debates will carry over into the realm of VR.