A little less than a year after Sony first talked about the successor to PlayStation VR — its virtual reality peripheral for the PS4 — we’re finally getting a generous serving of information during CES 2022, including its official name. It’s, well, PlayStation VR2 of course, but other things about Sony’s product are much less boring or predictable: like the pleasant surprise that PSVR2 will not require a camera connected to a PS5 in order to work (as PSVR did), as well as the fact that a single USB-C cable is all that will be tethering the headset with the latest and greatest PlayStation system.
Sony was able to drop the camera requirement for PSVR2 by using cameras integrated into the headset itself (it is called inside-out tracking), so the player’s movements and the direction he/she looks at are reflected in-game without the need for an external motion-tracking device. The PSVR2 also supports eye-tracking, meaning that it will be able to detect the motion of the player’s eyes — so a simple look in a specific direction can create an additional in-game input. This lets players interact with virtual environments more intuitively in new and lifelike ways, “allowing for a heightened emotional response and enhanced expression that provide a new level of realism in gaming”, according to Sony.
The company collectively calls all the tech applied to PSVR2 for sensory input “Sense Technology”: eye-tracking, headset feedback, 3D audio and the new Sense controllers’ various functions. Headset feedback amplifies the sensations of in-game actions from the player and it’s created by a single built-in motor with vibrations that add an intelligent tactile element, bringing players closer to the gameplay experience.
3D audio is self-explanatory, but it’s worth noting that it works through the PlayStation5’s Tempest audio engine, so it truly is object-based, positional and multi-directional like e.g. Dolby Atmos content in movies is. There have already been amazing examples of what Tempest can do in a few PS5 games and the immersion provided will only be heightened in VR. Last but not least, the Sense controllers offer the same type of haptic feedback and adaptive triggers that the PS5 DualSense controller does, so interaction with VR environments will be much more nuanced and detailed.
The all-important display aspect of a virtual reality device is addressed in a modern, flexible way by PSVR2. The new peripheral uses OLED screens that offer 2000×2040 pixel resolution per eye, so graphics can be much more solid and convincing this time around (the improved contrast will not hurt either). These screens can work at a refresh rate of either 90 or 120 Hz, so motion will be much, much smoother than before. The 110-degree field of view is more than enough for almost any scenario, while foveated rendering is supported on a system level (allowing the PS5 to calculate only the graphics the player is looking at any given time). With the kind of power the new PlayStation brings to the table, even first-gen PSVR2 games should look absolutely breathtaking compared to their PSVR equivalents.
Talking about first-gen PSVR2 games, Sony pleasantly surprised everyone by unveiling its first very own title for its upcoming VR peripheral. It’s called Horizon: Call of the Mountain and it takes place in the same world the current and new Horizon games do. It’s developed by Guerilla and Firesprite (one of the studios Sony acquired recently) and, judging from the teaser trailer it’s pretty far into production already. It might even be a launch title for PSVR2, which would be fantastic.
There’s still a lot we do not know about Sony’s VR peripheral, of course, such as its design, launch date and price: expect something futuristic, a late 2022 date and not a cent less than €399/$399 respectively (probably more). We won’t know for sure until Sony is ready for PSVR2’s commercial availability, which could be affected by the global semiconductor shortage still in full swing. What we do know, though, is already promising: this product, accompanied by enough AAA games at launch, could very well be the most important piece of gaming hardware for 2022. Cross fingers!