I was ecstatic when I first opened the box from Sony . I knew that inside, waiting for me, was the single piece of technology that could do more for the mainstreaming of virtual reality than anything we’ve seen to date.
I opened it, navigated a mess of wires, connected it to my home theater receiver (and the PlayStation) and then leapt for joy as my demo disc loaded. About 30 minutes into curb stomping bad guys and driving it like I stole it, I started to feel sick. Like, really sick. Lay down and rest sick.
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Nausea while playing games in VR is relatively common. I’ve experienced it before, and I knew it was time to call it quits for the day.
On the plus side, it gave me some time to reflect on what I’d just seen.
PlayStation VR isn’t a huge leap in terms of design. It’s actually sort of vanilla in its overall appeal and looks a lot like most of its competitors. There are, however, some smart design decisions that come into play that might not be immediately apparent.
For one, the band. Using a single button to loosen and a rotary knob to tighten makes putting it on and removing it a quick and painless process. An additional button under the viewer to adjust the lenses forward and backward allow further customizability to ensure a tight fit, without being restricting enough to leave marks on your face.
Being able to keep the main band loose while bringing the viewer closer to your face with a separate adjustment was a smart choice, and one that makes this easily the most comfortable headset I’ve donned to date.
Another smart choice was the dome-shaped front. Rather than resting on a small portion of your forehead, the padded dome distributes weight evenly, leading to a snug fit without ever feeling constricting.
Inside the viewer, you’ll find 5.7-inch OLED screens for each eye. The overall resolution of 1080p measures out to about 960 x 1080 for each eye, which is adequate but not game-changing. VR won’t be truly spectacular until we manage to squeeze resolutions of 4K and higher into the viewfinder.
Further down, you’ll find a volume and power controller with an attached headphone jack. PlayStation VR delivers superb sound quality through the use of 3D audio and a tiny pair of ear buds. You also have the option to use your own headphones, although anything larger than an earbud is probably going to make the headset too heavy.
Sony’s VR offering is as plug-and-play as virtual reality comes.
It’s a game-changer, but not how you might think
PlayStation VR is a huge leap in virtual reality. For Sonythough, the leap could just as easily be off the face of a cliff should the hardware fail to deliver. As with most things, the key to mainstreaming is putting it in the hands of the masses, a move simplified by integrating the headset with the most popular gaming console on the market.
Unlike Oculus, HTC, and others, Sony didn’t have modest consumer expectations. While Oculus was widely considered a game-changer, and one of the most-anticipated pieces of technology in the past decade, its founders knew initial appeal would be limited to a small subset of geeks.
Let’s cut to the chase; Sony isn’t going to dethroneOculus orHTC. It’s not an apples-to-apples contest, and in all honesty it’d be unfair to even make the comparison. We’re going to do it anyway.
PlayStation VR falls short in just about every statistical category to either of the top virtual reality headsets — the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive. Resolution, for example, falls short of Oculus and HTC at 960 x 1080 (per eye) versus 1080 x 1200 (per eye) on both others. The field of view is also slightly limited, clocking in at 100 degrees as opposed to 110. Even in terms of weight, it’s a bit heavy at 1.34 pounds compared to 1.03 (Oculus) and 1.22 pounds (HTC).
That said, you might be surprised to find out how little any of its shortcomings matter in the grander scheme of things.
Availability trumps specification