The Sony Playstation VR surprises in the test

The Sony Playstation VR surprises in the test

This year, just in time for Christmas, the gaming division of the electronics group Sony wants to release its own virtual reality glasses under the name Playstation VR.

This is supposed to represent content from the in – house game console Playstation 4-and this causes some problems for the Sony developers, because the Playstation 4 renders its content on the basis of a graphics processor that is at least four years old. The competition from HTC and Facebook’s VR subsidiary Oculus VR demand gaming PCs with state-of-the-art graphics cards of the type nVidia GTX 980 or AMD Radeon R9 290 for the use of their glasses to guarantee smooth, seamless VR presentation – a corresponding PC costs at least 1000 euros, three times more than a complete PS4. Sony’s developers, on the other hand, have to get by with the hardware that was current at the launch of the PS4 in 2013.

But Sony’s chief VR developer Simon Benson is relaxed in conversation with the “Welt”: “At the start of our development work five years ago, we thought that our biggest problem would be to guarantee a latency-free experience. But in retrospect, the most difficult thing was to make glasses that fit all the players in this world.“

Benson explains: The Europeans had large noses that had to fit into the spectacle case under the display. North American players tend to have large head circumferences, Asians would not like glasses that fit snugly against the face. On Wednesday, Sony showed a near – series model of the Playstation VR at its own Playstation Experience in-house game fair in Munich, which should fit all player heads of the world-and which already seemed very mature in the first attempts of the “world”.

Render quality less detailed

The white-black glasses with blue tracking LEDs look sturdy and also fit spectacle wearers, they are easy to adjust and do not press on the face. The first image impression from the glasses is excellent: the optics distort little, the viewing angle is similar to the competition of HTC and Oculus. The screen is colourful and clear, with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, only slightly lower than the dual displays of the competing Oculus devices (2120 x 1200 in total).

Thanks to the blue tracking LEDs on the back of the headband, the Playstation camera can track the position of the player’s head even during wild turns and seamlessly implements its movements in space. In the test, this worked perfectly, also thanks to the high refresh rate of the glasses: the device delivers 120 images per eye, at least 90 should always reach the Playstation even with demanding titles.

“Our advantage is that we only have to optimize our VR software for a single hardware environment-the competition has to adapt to thousands of different PC configurations,” explains developer Benson.

But the render quality of the Playstation VR is visibly less detailed in the test of the “world” than in VR games on high-end gaming PCs: Sony showed in Munich a PS4 version of the VR title EVE: Valkyrie, which looks much nicer in the version for the competing glasses Oculus Rift. But the comparison also shows: Decisive for the most immersive VR experience possible is not the quality of the render images, but the smoothest possible presentation-here Sony provides: Details such as slight quality smears are quickly forgotten in space combat.

In addition to Valkyrie, Sony also showed other titles that looked surprisingly good. In the futuristic robot sports competition game “Rigs”, the player becomes the pilot of a robot competing in an arena for gladiatorial combat. The game “Until Dawn: Rush of Blood” puts the player in a horror ghost train, where he is harassed by zombies. And in “Battle Zone” the gamer controls a futuristic tank through a city of the distant future. All tracks could only be played as ten-minute demos at first – but “EVE: Valkyrie” and “Rigs” in particular show potential for more.

Perhaps the biggest advantage: the price

Sony can’t do without new hardware either: Between the PS and the glasses, Sony switches a black box in PS4 design, which is about the size of an Apple TV. Hidden in it: new hardware that especially helps with rendering the 3-D sound. When asked what exactly is expected in the box, Simon Benson smiles: “Magic!”But at least he explains that in the future the TV in the living room will be connected to the box and not to the PS4:

The TV takes on an important role in another Sony innovation: Sony wants to avoid VR players sitting alone on the sofa. Sony also always shows the game undistorted on the TV so that friends or roommates can see what is being played.

What’s more, in future “Social VR”titles, VR players will be able to play together with players without VR glasses on a console and in a living room. In one demo title, the players could solve puzzles together in a comic environment, another demo puts the player with the glasses in the role of the house cat – the remaining players then have to steal the cheese under his eyes as mice.

“Social VR” could be one of the features that Sony scores against the competition in the upcoming Christmas season. But the most important point in favor of Sony is the price: while the competition from HTC and Oculus costs at least 699 euros, the Sony Playstation VR costs 399 euros in advance. In addition, at least 35 million players worldwide own a PS4 and do not have to invest money in a new gaming PC to enter virtual reality.

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