When most people think of virtual reality they imagine a difficult piece of technology that requires an expensive and intricate setup. Needing rooms specifically designed around playing in the virtual space, computers that cost thousands of pounds, the list goes on. While this used to be true, with technological advancements VR is getting more and more approachable for people that aren’t computer experts.
Considered by many to be the best consumer friendly VR device, the original PSVR just needed a PS4, a PlayStation camera and a little bit of space. This opened the virtual reality doors for a lot of people. However, it has been about 6 years since the original PSVR’s launch and since then a lot of new headsets have brought a lot of improvements which the original PSVR is now missing out on.
While most VR headsets still require a powerful computer and lots of setup, the Meta Quest 2 which launched in 2020 has made VR cheaper and more accessible than ever. Not only did it improve upon the head-tracking that was established with the Oculus Rift S which allowed you to use the headset without any other tracking hardware, but it also no longer required a PC to play. Games can be installed onto the headset itself, no cables, no fuss.
Finally, PSVR was dethroned as the most accessible VR solution. However, the games that can be installed onto the headset directly are limited, so if you want the full experience, you still need a powerful PC at your disposal. Naturally this means that with PSVR2, the heat is on. Sony wants to return to providing the best and most simple VR experience.
While they’re clearly not interested in following Meta’s wireless mandate, Sony have introduced cameras onto the headset that allows it to track itself without needing the PlayStation camera at all. With the PSVR2, All you need is the headset, your PlayStation 5, and you’re good to go.
While it can’t beat Meta Quest 2’s wireless functionality, the PSVR2 can instead compete by providing features that the Quest 2 does not have.
The biggest feature that could revolutionise the VR experience is PSVR2’s eye-tracking.
Using cameras near the screens of the PSVR2, the headset will track the movements of your eyes, intuitively shifting the focus of the game based on what you’re looking at. Adding more depth to the world that extends beyond the headset.
Eye-tracking is becoming more and more prevalent in high-end VR headsets, but they all have big barriers to entry. This is a huge boon to the PSVR2 because it’s adding a powerful feature to a headset with little other requirements. Naturally we don’t know the price point of the PSVR2, but we can estimate that it will still be one of the cheaper options on the market. Definitely more expensive than Meta Quest 2’s RRP (even after its recent price increase), but still on the more affordable end of the spectrum. It could very easily be the cheapest VR headset with eye-tracking enabled. Which would be an incredible place to stand in the space.
Eye-tracking is a powerful feature that allows you to interact with the virtual world without a controller. Simply by looking at an object, the game can react in a variety of different ways. This adds a whole new dimension to the virtual reality you now find yourself in. Usually VR headsets require you to do all the looking with your head. You move stiffly, looking straight ahead at all times, it feels unnatural and can be distracting. With eye-tracking, your vision works much more intuitively, you look at the world around you in the same way you do in real life. Though the potential of eye-tracking is yet to be realised in most games, Sony has an advantage that other VR headset creators do not. They can make their own exclusive games that leverage the power of their headset.
It’s interesting that Sony didn’t do this too often during the PSVR’s lifespan, but this time they’ve come out of the gate swinging with Horizon: Call of the Mountain. This incredible looking VR experience will no doubt use eye-tracking to its advantage. From aiming your bow, to focusing on the minute details of the wilderness around you, I predict it’ll merely be the start of Sony’s powerful new VR strategy and games.
If the PSVR2 and its eye-tracking is implemented as well as it could be, it’s going to bring fresh competition to the VR market. The original PSVR never quite made the splash Sony were looking for, but they’ve gone back to the drawing board, have created what seems like on paper to be a very powerful piece of kit and are willing to have exclusive games that will show off its power. This will force other companies to rethink what they’re doing in order to compete with this upcoming juggernaut. The PSVR2’s eye-tracking is just one piece of the puzzle that could completely shake up the VR space and have lasting repercussions for years to come.
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