VR headsets close to reality as Google Wear arrives for your wrist

Playstation Morpheus
PlayStation's answer to the Oculus Rift - Project Morpheus

Morpheus: the god of dreams, a faintly annoying character in The Matrix and soon, something you strap to your face. We're talking about Sony's Project Morpheus, a VR headset for the PS4 that might just change gaming forever.

It's a bit rough, says Alex Roth, and there's no sign of a price tag as yet, but the 1080p display has a lot of potential. It's "novel, incredibly immersive, and like the Oculus Rift, basically something out of a sci-fi fan's dream," Roth says.

Is it a competitor to the Oculus Rift? "Not really, and here's why… more platforms means more developers, which means more games for consumers to play, and a better chance for both headsets to make it in prime time. The Oculus folks seem to agree that it's more of a colleague than a competitor."

As for the Oculus, it's tantalisingly close to being A Thing You Can Buy.

We've had a go on one of the latest developer kit, and we reckon it's "the coolest product in the world right now, and it gets better every time we see it." Rumours suggest a Christmas 2014 launch. We've sent our letters to Santa already.

We tested the VR headsets at this year's GDC, the games industry's annual extravaganza. But GDC wasn't just about strapping huge things to your head. We got to see stacks of Steam Machines, a new version of the Unity gaming engine and a whole bunch of indie games for the Xbox One.

Google news

Google had some news for us this week too. The Chromecast TV streamer has hit the UK, and Patrick Goss was quick to put it through its paces: as he says, "at its heart the Chromecast is a simple and cheap way to add a host of on-demand and catchup services to your television." At £30 it's incredibly cheap, and it's a great way of adding Netflix and iPlayer to non-smart TVs.

That's not all. Google also took the wraps off Android Wear, its version of Android for smartwatches and other wearable devices.

If Samsung's gear-related tomfoolery had convinced you that smartwatches are ugly, think again. The incoming Moto 360 is a genuinely pretty watch that just happens to do the Google Now stuff too. There are stacks of Android Wear watches on the horizon in a variety of shapes and styles, and if they're as good-looking as the Moto then wearables are about to get a whole lot more exciting.

Wear it out

So what exactly does Android Wear do? Matt Swider explains: "Android Wear is intended to provide 'information that moves with you' and puts the entire world inches from your suddenly-free fingertips. It doesn't just tell the time. The wearable operating system makes suggestions based on time and it factors location into its context-sensitive data."

If you're in an airport you'll see your boarding pass or gate change information. If you're navigating you'll see a map. If you're on the bus you'll see which stop you need to get off at. And if you're near a sea full of dangerous jellyfish you'll be warned about that too. "All of a sudden," Swider says, "digging a rectangular smartphone out of your pocket seems so pedestrian."

There are still lots of questions to answer. How will the Moto 360 be charged when it doesn't have a USB port? We're thinking wireless, but Motorola won't comment. What happens on the bus if the person next to you says "OK Google", issues a command and your watch hears them? Will battery life be measured in weeks, days or hours? Will there be a version that works with iOS?

We won't have to wait long for answers: as Swider says, we can "expect to hear more about Android Wear and see the unveiling of the first Wear apps at the Google IO conference in June." More details will be "on hand", so that's one to, ahem, watch.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.