PSVR 2 Firmware Update Includes New Support for NVIDIA GPUs, Pointing to Wired PC VR Connection

Sony announced last month it was bringing PC VR support to PSVR 2 sometime this year, although the company didn’t specify how or exactly when this would happen. According to the headset’s latest firmware update, all signs now point to a direct wired connection—holding a few implications for Sony’s VR strategy.

Update (March 25th, 2024): iVRy, the leading third-party project dedicated to bringing unofficial PC VR support to PSVR 2, announced on X the headset’s latest firmware update seems to show that Sony is indeed enabling support for NVIDIA GPUs ahead of its own official solution for PC VR. Previously the headset only supported AMD graphics since that’s what is built into PS5 consoles.

It remains to be see what sort of hardware adapters will be required however, and whether they will be provided directly by Sony or not.

This further suggests Sony is fully untangling PSVR 2 from PS5 by letting users directly plug their headsets into a PC, and not offering a dedicated streaming solution, which would otherwise need both the console and PC to do. The original article detailing the firmware update follows below:

Original Article (March 21st, 2024): According to the latest PS5 firmware update, PSVR 2 now works without needing Extended Display Identification Data (EDID) and DisplayPort Compression (DSC), two things which were baked into the headset’s firmware for use with PS5 consoles.

Here’s hardware analyst and YouTuber Brad Lynch’s (aka ‘SadlyItsBradley’) take on it:

As Lynch rightly asks, is Sony washing its hands of PSVR 2? It might be.

Supporting PC VR through a direct tether and not a console-based streaming solution completely frees PSVR 2 from the PS5 ecosystem, letting users ditch the console entirely, which admittedly locks users into a fairly lackluster game catalogue. While this sounds great for consumers in general, it may point to troubled waters for the company’s VR strategy moving forward.

Of course, Sony hasn’t tipped its hand just yet, although it’s clear that the company is looking at it from a cost-cutting perspective, as it recently laid off eight percent of Sony Interactive Entertainment, which shuttered its London Studio (Blood & Truth) and, among others, reduced headcount at Firesprite (Horizon Call of the Mountain).

Unlike Meta’s Quest platform, Sony ostensibly hasn’t subsidized PSVR 2 hardware in effort to recoup on costs with software sales though—putting the MSRP of the $550 headset likely at or above the cost of production. Granted, we haven’t seen the hardware cost breakdown, although it’s at least clear that from the outset that Sony wasn’t beholden to funding the sort of anchor content that it needed in order to convert a significant portion of ~50 million PS5 owners.

Provided Sony is really untangling PSVR 2 from PS5, the company may even see it as a way to wind down its VR efforts. If instead the company went with a PC VR streaming solution that required PS5, it would only really provide choice to existant PSVR 2 users, and not attract new users from helping to flush its backlog of unpurchased stock, as Sony has reportedly paused production on PSVR 2 due to low sales.

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Sony Reportedly Pauses PSVR 2 Production Due to Low Sales

Sony has reportedly paused production of PSVR 2, as it looks to clear its backlog of inventory first before resuming.

According to a Bloomberg report, PSVR 2 sales have “slowed progressively” since its February 2023 launch. Citing people familiar with the company’s plans, Sony has produced “well over 2 million units” since launch, noting that stocks of the $550 headset are building up.

The report alleges the surplus is “throughout Sony’s supply chain,” indicating the issue isn’t confined to a single location, but is spread across different stages of Sony’s production and distribution network.

This follows news that Sony Interactive Entertainment laid off eight percent of the company, which affected a number of its first-party game studios also involved in VR game production. Sony entirely shuttered its London Studio, which created VR action-adventure game Blood & Truth (2019), and reduced headcount at Firesprite, the studio behind PSVR 2 exclusive Horizon Call of the Mountain.

Meanwhile, Sony is making PSVR 2 officially compatible with PC VR games, as the company hopes to release some sort of PC support for the headset later this year. How and when Sony will do that is still unknown, although the move underlines just how little confidence the company has in its future lineup of exclusive content just one year after launch of PSVR 2.

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Sony’s Upcoming MR Headset Could Point the Way for Controllers on Vision Pro

Vision Pro doesn’t have controllers, but it’s clear Apple will need to support immersive hardware input somehow in the future, if only for the greater precision it might bring to industry professionals. Sony has a pretty interesting take on how to serve up ‘pro’ style controllers in its recently revealed enterprise-focused standalone, which could point the way forward for Vision Pro.

Vision Pro is a mixed reality headset with a bit of an identity crisis. While it can technically play fully-immersive VR content, without motion controllers many of the VR games you’ll find on Quest simply won’t make the jump to the $3,500 device, which is instead being pitched as a productivity machine capable of running the standard fleet of iOS apps in addition to visionOS-native apps.

Ok, maybe not an “identity crisis” as such, but Apple made some clear marketing decisions with Vision Pro by omitting controllers, instead focusing on eye and hand-tracking input. Granted, that’s not to say we’ll never see motion controllers on Vision Pro, but probably not the all-purpose Touch-style controllers many manufacturers have converged upon following Meta’s dominance in VR. At least not in the near future.

At CES 2024 in January, Sony unveiled its Snapdragon-based standalone MR headset (still unnamed) which promises a ton of enterprise-friendly features, like “4K” OLED microdisplays, passthrough video, a flip-up visor, and a unique pair of controllers that aim to appeal to the sort of professionals Apple undoubtedly wants to capture at some point too.

When it ships sometime “later in 2024,” Sony is including both a pointer-like controller that’s operated with the index finger, and a small ring-like device that’s controlled with the thumb. Yes, they’re funky, but they have some pretty specific use-cases in mind.

The ring lets you select items and anchor them firmly to your hand, while the so-called ‘pointing controller’ enables what Sony calls “stable and accurate pointing in virtual spaces, with optimized shape and button layouts for efficient and precise operation.” It’s basically a 3D stylus Sony hopes will appeal to creators building and viewing 3D objects in the headset itself, but in a natural and precise way, making for an ostensibly pared down version of Wacom’s VR Pen, which was announced back in 2020.

Wait. Why are controllers so important in the first place? Vision Pro’s hand-tracking is some of the best—and will likely evolve over the headset’s life cycle—but all of the same caveats apply to Vision Pro’s optical hand-tracking as they do in any modern XR headset. That’s to say, there is only so much Apple (or anyone) can do without controllers.

Hand-tracking doesn’t provide haptic feedback, which isn’t great for establishing physical relationships to digital objects. Most of all though, using an empty hand to ‘pinch and drag’ doesn’t provide the sort of precision grip you can get from tracked controllers, which necessarily include buttons that don’t need to ‘guess’ when you’re using them, since buttons have precise activation thresholds that you can intuitively learn to manipulate and anticipate. The button ‘knows’ when you’re just resting your finger on it, when you’re depressing it half-way, and when it’s all the way down—all of which can be integrated into a more rich and accurate way of spatially computing beyond just browsing through UI menus and doing some lighter gaming stuff.

Image courtesy Sony

Not to mention, going for something similar to Sony’s ring/pointer combo would allow Apple to retain that pro-level marketing bend, and also offer a sleek (and very likely expensive) accessory we all know Apple loves to sell—but that’s besides the point.

It’s not like any of this is a big surprise to Apple though, or the developers making visionOS-native apps that use of the headset’s 3D spatial abilities. For now, Apple wants Vision Pro to be more ‘face-computer’ than gaming console, but also more ‘bottom-tier iPad’ than Mac Pro, at least in terms of hardcore industry apps it can support. There’s plenty of room to grow however, as right now Vision Pro has a few apps for viewing 3D assets in immersive space, like Polycam and the enterprise-focused app JigSpace, and casual sculpting and 2D art apps—but still none of the industry standard tools like Blender or Autodesk, both of which actually support VR headsets.

Still, Apple is very much a ‘wait and see’ sort of company, so its competitors may need to collectively be “the first guy through the wall” (who always gets bloody) before the Fruit Company follows suit. Given a second iteration of the headset has been rumored to arrive sometime in the next two years, Apple may be waiting to bump that particular feature set later rather than sooner, if only to have that really useful One More Thing™ to announce next time Tim Cook takes the stage.

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