GDC live report: Sony's "Future of Innovation" is VR Finished
The night is over and Sony didn't let us down - Project Morpheus, a virtual reality headset for PlayStation 4, was unveiled.
It's a prototype three years in the making, with no price and no release date, and that could still change. However, Sony mentioned pricing it as cheaply as possible, and releasing it as soon as possible, whatever that really means.
Project Morpheus specs and other fiddly details were noted in a formal press release.
The Project Morpheus demos playable at GDC, which our Martin Robinson will rush to try, are The Deep (evade dangerous sea creatures), The Castle, EVE Valkyrie and a special portion of Thief.
Robinson will endeavour to bring you his impressions of Project Morpheus as soon as possible. He's already seen the latest Oculus Rift headset at GDC, so he's got a good base for comparison.
Early posts are displayed first now, so you'll have to scroll down to get to the announcement.
Our live coverage has now ended. Here's what you missed: Updating...
Good evening-almost-morning everyone on a UK timezone, and good day everyone else. Half-an-hour until kick-off. Martin Robinson is on his way, whistling a happy tune. How are you all doing?
Then you have no need for the future. Begone!
Now, according to Oculus Rift founder Palmer Luckey, who I spoke to last year, it's relatively easy to replicate the tech, but it's the development environment - the SDK - that's where the war will be won.
Martin Robinson has messaged me to tell me he's in the queue, and that is very exciting indeed.
Oculus has spent a lot of money cultivating it's SDK, hiring the likes of John Carmack no less, among others. It's also partnered with Valve and Steam, which provides a daunting level of support.
I will! Though I dropped my phone and all the photos now look psychedelic. It'll be just like being here! On acid!
And we've seen how easily students get their hands on the Rift and start making experimental projects for it. Will Sony be able to foster the same kind of creative community? Will it even matter? The console space is a different thing... or is it?
Good evening from sunny California. You can literally smell the excitement here! The chap in front of me smells particularly excited.
In the queue, which as you'd expect is lengthy.
It's 5.45 PST.
I've just been playing the new Oculus with Crystal Cove. Sony's alternative will have to be very, very good to compete.
Hold on, I think I've seen a secret picture of Sony's slimline device...
SPOTTED! Andy House heading in to bag the best seats.
We're all being given VR suits to wear. A chimp wearing one of the headsets was also just ushered in. Scared now.
Wouldn't it be silly if Sony put thumbsticks on the outside of the headset as to impersonate your eyes? They'd appear all googly! Maybe it could come with stickers.
Idea for PS4 VR game: Tickles the Spider
Geoff Keighley is standing behind me. Awkward.
That's an interesting use for VR. Good call
People are being told no filming. And to remove their Google Glasses. San Francisco!
Best possible start: "This is Andrew's house..."
We're heading in!
We're still heading in!
The queue's moving as fast as a PS3 firmware update.
I HAVE A CHAIR. Relatively comfortable, though the slope of the backrest is a bit too far back for my liking.
Who's that behind the curtain?!
There is indeed something under a black drape on the stage.
I TAKE SEATING VERY SERIOUSLY.
Photos will be slow to come to you, so apologies for that.
Ruffled like the inside of a Ripple chocolate bar, red like the blood from a fresh wound.
That drape really is hiding something quite large.
Maybe it's Shuhei's head under there?
He'll appear like Oscar the Grouch out of the stand before having the VR set lowered on to his head.
Haha, beat me to it!
Just seen Guerilla's Herman Hulst, who is possibly the hottest man in the games industry.
This is genuinely exciting.
So, we know it's going to be a VR thing - will it be intended for commercial use, or just a cool prototype Sony wants to show off?
Remember we're at GDC - this isn't an invent intended for consumers, but for developers. Hence the lack of livestream.
The room's filled out already, so we can't be far from kicking off.
And here we go. Shu's on stage, grinning like a loon.
'Thank you for coming to this cryptic session - you have no idea what we're going to talk about' jokes Shu.
'Here I can get an idea of trends in the industry, alongside developers from all over the world.'
'It's particularly exciting to talk about innovation at PlayStation, and what's coming next.'
'Something we believe will push the industry forward'
'Since the early days of video games, we've used technology to push experiences forward - ones we weren't expecting'
'We're looking at pushing the boundary of play'
Sony's innovations include the CD-ROM, the Cell, PSN, Blu-Ray and, this summer, PS Now.
'It's the next innovation from PlayStation that may shape the future of games'
'Let's first talk about how we arrived here'
Ooooh, you bloody tease Shu. Just lift up the drape and show us what you've got son.
Yoshida's talking about immersion - and how nothing develops immersion better than VR.
We'll have Richard and Anton talking to us about that in a second.
'Many of us at PlayStation have dreamed about VR and what it could mean for the games that we create'
Now a slide showing Move - the VT experiment has been going on since Move was introduced.
Shu is showing pics of Sony's VR prototype.
Sony Santa Monica developed a prototype where you played as Kratos in VR mode. We're seeing it now.
Exploring the world of God of War. And seeing a dismemberment from the first-person.
Cripes that was grim.
'When I looked down, I saw my body was that of Kratos. That was empowering!'
The headset they're showing in the videos looks just like the HMZ you'll have seen before.
It's name - project Morpheus.
That's officially it. Known as Project Morpheus.
It's a slick looking device - light, and more aesthetically impressive than Oculus.
Shu is now showing us. It is quite large, in fact.
It's the culmination of three years of experimentation.
It's still a prototype, though.
We'll be able to play the device from tomorrow.
I'll be playing myself tomorrow night - so expect impressions then!
'We believe Morpheus will further enhance PlayStation'. It'll work alongside the camera, and Move.
'We like to invite passionate developers to work with us. We've seen Oculus share prototypes and share technology, and I have an enormous amount of respect for them.'
Dr. Richard Marks is now on stage.
'It's been great to be a part of this project since the very beginning.'
Presence is disruptive, and it's going to become the preferred medium for all sorts of things, says Marks.
He's been working with NASA - and they're here! Partly because it's cool to work with NASA. And to help them do immersive science.
Oculus has Carmack, Sony has NASA. I'm not sure who wins that battle.
There's a Mars demo where it feels like you're on Mars.
Using data captured from the Mars Rover.
VR's pervasive - he can imagine people using it in a hotel lobby, checking out rooms to see if they want to stay there or not.
They've identified six areas on how to nail VR, and make it mass-market.
Sight, sound, tracking, control, ease of use and content.
Sight, first of all. To achieve presence, you need hi-res, high framerate display.
And you need specialised optics - they're leaning on Sony's experience in that area to make it happen.
Sony's got a heritage here too.
In VR, sound is really important. It's important things sound like they would in the real world.
You use the directionality of sound to work out where you are.
So Sony's developed new tech to help with this.
Now tracking - the most important thing in VR.
They're using the same tech as PlayStation Move - with a lot higher rate sensors, and the PlayStation Camera.
'Which almost seems like it was designed for VR....' jokes Marks.
'We think the tracking will be one of the metrics that judges how good your VR is'. Oculus knows that, with its Crystal Cove tech.
Control's next - and it's the biggest challenge.
I spoke to Palmer Luckey about this topic this afternoon - more on that tomorrow!
PlayStation Move is an excellent VR controller, says Marks.
'We want it to be easy for people' - it has to be plug in and play, and comfortable.
The goal is for it to be sitting on the coffee table, and you just slip it on and off.
Last thing is content.
Worldwide Studios will be developing a sea of content.
But Sony wants the wider development world to be involved - which is why they're announcing at GDC.
'We want to make PlayStation the best place for VR - and not just for playing, but for developing.'
List of people already working on this - Crytek, Havok, Unity, Epic, CriWare.
Obviously these are tech outfits - no word on developers just yet.
'This is a great time - it's like the wild west'.
'How often do you get to define a new medium?'
Marks is wrapping up, and Anton's up next.
Anton Mikhailov, who works in R&D, is up next.
'This is a medium, not a peripheral.'
'Games are only one type of content'.
'A lot of the rules from traditional games don't apply'
'Presence trumps game design in VR.;
'Head motion is law'
Oh, by the way - the slide that's illustrating that is using a Colossus from Shadow of the Colossus. Read into that what you will.
There are still a lot of game design challenges in VR we don't have the answers to yet.
Arm position is one - depth conflict, clipping and how it's accommodated in the virtual world.
Full body tracking isn't an option, I've learnt today - the latency in even the better cameras like Kinect means it just doesn't work.
Presence is the unique selling point of VR, says Anton.
To achieve presence on a technical level, you need to keep latency low - and you need to keep framerate high.
These are problems Oculus are dealing with well. Can't wait to try this thing out and see how it compares.
Rendering images cleanly is really important in VR. And 3D audio is too.
Sorry, am summarising Anton mostly - will make it more explicit when I interject!
Input is also important, says Anton - driving games work well, because there's no abstraction when using a wheel as opposed to a gamepad. Move's good for replicating things like guns and swords, so it should work for VR.
'Emotion will be amplified - you have complete sensory blackout. That's why we go to cinemas, where it's dark and the sound's great'
'You get a whole new palette of emotions you can work with - vertigo, claustrophobia, fear of the dark, fear of void and extreme horror'
'They really can freak people out' jokes Anton. 'But that can be fun to watch.'
Sorry for the lack of photos - it's hard to type and upload photos at the same time. For what it's worth, Anton is handsome and so are his powerpoint slides. They're mostly just text though.
VR has to be for everyone, says Anton - hardware has to be comfortable, content has to be varied and the experience can be shared.
The current devkit is 1080p.
90 degree field of view.
Bear in mind this is the devkit, though, so this isn't final.
1000Hz tracking - and full 360 degrees rotation tracking.
DualShock 4 and PS Move both work with the same camera.
It's quite obvious that the PS4 was designed with VR in mind. That's the reason for that lightbar on the DS4, I guess.
The kit has a true spatial sound system, synthesised by simulating the human ear.
It can simulate 60 virtual speakers around you.
There are lights on it, like the DS4 bar and Move.
The headset is comfortable for prolonged use, and supports custom headphones.
There's a social screen feature - it splits the signal onto the main TV.
So when you're playing a game, people can see what you're playing through an undistorted mirror of the image.
This allows for asymmetric gameplay - the person watching the TV can dick around with you while you're wearing the headset by manipulating the world.
The demos we'll see - first is called The Deep, from Sony London Studio.
There's a castle demo using Move that allows you to grab objects, and wield a sword and bow and arrow.
And Eve Valkyrie is here too.
And Thief is here too.
It's a bespoke bit of the game designed for VR.
No Drive Club.
We're closing up now - and that was quite an impressive presentation.
The floor's open to questions now.
I'm going to try and ask some of my interview standards. How many graphics does it have?
The prototype is wired - and its a 5 metres long cable.
'What frame-rate will you get, and what latency' asks someone in the audience.
'The highest frame-rate, and the lowest latency. And we're coming out as soon as possible.'
Regarding weight, as this is a prototype they're not committing to anything.
Current focus is on PlayStation - no talking about how this will, or could, work on PC.
You won't hear anything about the cost here, either.
That's my fail. Sorry!
Just did. Egg and cress ones, apparently.
They won't talk about that specifically, but did say it takes a lot of horsepower to do VR - so that's PS4 only, really.
They won't talk about that specifically, but did say it takes a lot of horsepower to do VR - so that's PS4 only, really.
They're not talking specifics - but, as Anton just said, 'As soon as possible'.
It isn't yet, but the hope is the final product will be.
'Where did the Morpheus name come from?'
'We decided on that name last week' admits Yoshida.
But it's also named after the god of dreams, innit.
London Studio is the one Sony studio they're talking about who are working on Morpheus. Other studios are experimenting.
You'll look as cool as Laurence Fishburne, but as cool as he was in Predators rather than The Matrix.
And that's a wrap - and indeed the drape comes back over the prototype.
We'll be playing the unit tomorrow night, US time, so will get impressions and comparisons with Oculus to you as soon as we can.
Who says they're not!
They want egg and cress sandwiches to eat.
Well, for me that was one of the more impressive presentations I've ever seen - hope some of that came across. Official pics of the unit are on the site now.
Thanks for bearing with me!
That's TWO pictures to you!
The misery I put myself through for you chaps. I'm off to find a nice Chesterfield sofa to recline on now.
Thanks again for coming along, will share more with you on it all as soon as I can!