Sony unveiled Project Morpheus at GDC 2014 introducing us to the first real virtual reality competitor to the Oculus Rift.
GDC 2015 saw the latest announcement revealing the newest evolution of Morpheus. Even better, barring any complications, we'll be able to own one in the first half of 2016.
Complete with a larger 5.7-inch OLED screen with 1920 x RGB x 1080 resolution. The field of view has been stretched to 100 degrees, and Project Morpheus now supports an impressive 120fps output (a new SDK will let 60fps images output at 120fps, too).
It now also supports 3D audio and has a new feature called social screen, which lets users take the same gameplay they see inside their Morpheus and put it on a TV so other people can play along.
The new design is, obviously, the most noticeable part of the Morpheus. It feels far lighter than the Crescent Bay edition of the Rift - and it's far easier to put on and take off, especially for the glasses-adorned folk (like me). The visor even fits super comfortably over my large frames, though there were moments where they fogged up a little. But a simple push forward with a new quick release button on the bottom right of the visor, freed it from my face making is easy to readjust.
There's a new single band too, which again helps with putting on and taking off the headset. Once completely on properly, I didn't feel like I was going to fall over from the weight. Looking down might require a slight readjustment though, but nothing major like the whole thing slipping around - which has occurred when I've used Oculus. This might have also happened because I didn't have a lot of time to really fiddle around with the headset due to the demo's time constraint.
Three additional LEDS have been added on for a total of nine altogether - three can be found on each side, one on top and bottom, one smack dab in the middle of the faceplate and lastly, two lights on the very back. All this is supposed to help improve tracking accuracy which it definitely seemed to do.
During my demo of The London Heist, I felt like the Eye had a difficult time tracking my movements especially when I was trying to reload my gun quickly. It may have been due to me kneeling to hide behind a VR desk making it difficult for the camera to see my hands, but popping out to shoot the baddies proved easy.
The Morpheus still really shines with the Eye and Move controllers. Seeing my disembodied hands in the game and rummaging around drawers looking for objects reminded me of Surgeon Simulator but with far more accuracy, of course.
Sony claims latency issues have been addressed as well. It was hard to tell with this demo since it was a straightforward shooter but ducking down to avoid being shot, looking down to reload and then quickly looking up to shoot didn't make me feel sick at all. The graphics in general were also almost on par with my previous Rift experiences which is impressive considering I was actually interacting with the environment around me instead of just looking at things.
The experience as a whole was pretty exciting. It's definitely the most interactive VR demo I've done, and the most fast paced. I loved how I wanted to experience something like BioShock Infinite or GTA V in VR, and this demo gave me a little sneak peek of what gaming could be like with FPS type games.
The other demo I tried involved a PS4 Dualshock controller and those little guys from Sony's augmented reality game, The Playroom.
The first part involved using the Dualshock controller to interact with the little bots. Pressing circle made music come on and cause the bots to dance, X shined a flashlight on their little faces (supremely annoying them) and so forth.
The coolest part of this demo was seeing the controller actually in virtual reality, as in whatever buttons you pushed, the VR controller would respond in sync.
The light on the controller also serves a tracking point so turning it around in your hands simultaneously turned it virtually - so what you'll see is a PS4 controller floating in front of you to help guide you. I can see this being an interesting addition to future games as it should help you feel less weird using a controller in VR.
The second part of the demo was a real treat, and I could tell the creators had a blast making it. It was reminiscent of an Oculus Rift demo I tried at CES where you're basically observing a little scene. In this case, the experience involved peering into a little dollhouse with a bunch of rooms full of AR bots as they fought over sodas, had their own Morpheus experiences, swam in a pool and more. No direct interaction or controller was used but some bots would wave and turn their heads to stare at you. One was even flying a tiny DJI drone in your face, snapping pictures which made me want to keep swatting my hands around, but of course, there was nothing there.
Hearing the 3D sound from the drone felt like it was seamlessly coming from all around me. This was the case with the previous demo too, where shooters would be placed in different locations.
The newest Project Morpheus is magnificent. There seem to be a few minor hiccups to sort out but it feels like the hardware is solid, and far more comfortable than a lot o VR headsets out there which is huge. No one wants to wear something bulky and restraining for more than an hour, but I can see myself feeling pretty dang comfy with a Morpheus on my noggin.
The Crescent Bay edition of Rift is equally spectacular in usage compared to Project Morpheus but it doesn't provide any real game demos to show off how well it does with interactive experiences. Granted, the Oculus team seem more keen on providing immersive experiences without peripherals opposed to full on games.
This is where the Morpheus has the edge. Its proven itself a real contender for virtual reality in your living room thanks to the incorporation of the Move controllers and the PlayStation Eye.
Now, all this headset needs are more games.
Read on for in-depth coverage on Project Morpheus, or if you're in the mood to read Cameron Faulkner's impressions, who nearly flipped his lid upon first trying it, check that out here.