Thoughts on the PSVR 2 Announcement

Sony’s next generation VR headset was officially announced/acknowledged at the end of February 2021. I’ve been meaning to write about the announcement since then, especially since it was a 2020 prediction of mine. Procrastination paid off in March when Sony revealed the new controller design for what most are just calling PSVR 2. If I wait any longer, the whole thing will be revealed and I don’t want to necessarily wait that long.

The initial announcement did more than confirm the new hardware was coming out some time after 2021: It actually gave insight to where the hardware is headed, especially for such an early tease.

…enhances everything from resolution and field of view to tracking and input. It will connect to PS5 with a single cord to simplify setup and improve ease-of-use, while enabling a high-fidelity visual experience.

The original PSVR had all right specs back in 2016, with some that are still leaders in the VR space. The headset supports a 90Hz-120Hz refresh rate, which matches the Valve Index and out-specs Oculus Rift S and Quest 2. PSVR 1 has a 100° field-of-view with a 1080p OLED display, while the Index has 130° field-of-view with 1440 x 1600 LCD screens.

The single cord reminds of the Rift S when I tried it at PAX East 2019. This tells me that the PS5 is going to be handling all of the processing, unlike the first iteration of PS VR where an additional processor box was required for powering the TV output and audio processing, something the PS5 should have no issue handling at all. I know plenty of people who were wishing for a wireless headset, but if Sony did go wireless, I doubt they could use the PS5’s power to its max potential. It would limit the new headset’s capabilities right out of the gate.

…which will incorporate some of the key features found in the DualSense wireless controller, along with a focus on great ergonomics. That’s just one of the examples of future-proof technology we’re developing to match our vision for a whole new generation of VR games and experiences.

Back in February, this was easy to imagine after using the DualSense with my own PS5. The technology inside that controller is just begging for VR implementations. Thankfully, it didn’t take long at all to see how Sony was going to morph the DualSense tech into a VR controller—a real, designed-for from the ground up VR controller.

Gone are glowing golf balls, replaced with a tracking ring monitored by the headset itself. This implies there will be no need for the official PS5 camera accessory to use PSVR 2. The marvelous haptics and the adaptive triggers are in place along with finger touch detection. This doesn’t sound quite like finger-tracking. The touch detection will be in place where your thumb, index, and middle fingers rest. Maybe finger-tracking can be added via a patch, if the headset does have outward tracking cameras. When you combine these elements with the PS5’s Tempest audio engine, PSVR 2 has incredible potential to really put users in a place. Hopefully the headset keeps a high refresh-rate OLED panel to further immerse users in color and reduce sickness. The real test will actually be to use the controllers and the headset, but I can’t see that happening until Fall 2022 at the earliest, especially with the controllers only going out to developers in the near future.

I have been a day-one adopter of PSVR and a firm believer in VR as a whole since I demoed an HTC Vive one day at UCF on a whim. VR truly offers new ways to engage with games, media, and each other. PSVR has reminded me a lot of Oculus’ cheaper initiatives with the goal of getting quality VR in the hands of everyday consumers.

There are plenty of ways Sony balanced cost with quality for the PSVR. The two key points would be the use of the PS4 itself as the power behind the headset and the use of the PS3 Move Controllers from 2010. PSVR itself launched in 2016. Repurposing older technology allowed them to not bet the proverbial farm on VR though. By using a console that was in tens of millions of homes (now over 125 million) with older accessories, Sony offered customers a competent, fully featured VR headset that helped prove VR was and is more than a fade. Combined with exclusive games deals and continuous development for new games, both internally and externally, Sony was able to offer enticing titles for the platform despite its limited specs. Some games even pushed the medium forward like Tetris Effect and Astro Bot Rescue Mission.

Now, with PSVR 2, they seem to be going all in on the right types of technology to create a powerful, comparable, and competitive headset. Combined with the relationships curated with developers and rock solid exclusives, PS VR 2 can push forward in the space well. It will (most likely) be cheaper than top-of-the-line PC headsets and likely have more power than mobile headsets like the Oculus Quest 2. It could find that sweet spot once again between cost and quality.

Also, Half-Life Alyx on PSVR 2 please?