A recently-published patent filing from Sony Interactive Entertainment (the PlayStation division of the company) details eye-tracking technology that we could see in PSVR 2.
The document, which was filed in June of this year and published towards the end of September (as spotted on Reddit) details ‘Eye Tracking To Adjust Region-Of-Interest (ROI) For Compressing Images For Transmission’. That seems to be a long way of saying eye-tracking for foveated rendering, a term that is specifically mentioned in the document later on.
New PlayStation Patent Filing Shows Eye-Tracking
Foveated rendering is a means of using eye-tracking to detect where a user is directly looking on a display to fully render only the direct center of their vision. The peripheral area of the user’s sight isn’t fully rendered but, in theory, should be imperceptible to your gaze. This in turn drastically reduces the demands on the machine powering a given experience.
It’s long been thought that foveated rendering would be key to improving the fidelity of VR experiences. Earlier this year, we confirmed that Sony’s new PS5 VR headset (which hasn’t been officially named PSVR 2 yet) would feature this technology.
There are some interesting illustrations in the documents that give you an idea of how this might work. In the image below, for example, we can see a representation of a normal, fully-detailed game image on the left and then another on the right that shows a high degree of detail in the center of the car, with that detail decreasing the further away from the center you get. “By utilizing foveated tessellation of real-time graphics rendering, detail may be added and subtracted from a 3D mesh for regions of interest,” the document notes.
At the end of the day, though, this is just a patent filing and not necessarily indicative of Sony’s work with PSVR 2. But we are expecting to hear more about the new headset soon, with a release expected sometime in 2022. You can keep up with everything we know about PSVR 2 right here.
It looks like Sony has a new VR headset on the way but, no, it isn’t PSVR 2.
Xperia Blog caught what appears to be leaked images of a new headset from Sony’s mobile division, Xperia. Yes, that’s right, this is a phone-based VR headset in 2021. According to the rumor, this new device will connect with Sony’s own Xperia 1 II and Xperia 1 III flagship models.
Images of the device show a plastic shell with a space in the front visor for the phone’s camera. There also appears to be a lens adjustment dial on the bottom. There’s no word yet on exactly what type of content you could expect on the device aside from one promotional image (below) that mentions 8K 360 degree HDR content. We don’t if it would offer advanced features like six degrees of freedom (6DOF) tracking, but that seems unlikely.
Phone-based VR headsets have mostly died out in the past year as the industry has shifted to fully standalone devices like the Oculus Quest. That said the Xperia 1 III is a powerhouse handset with a 4K HDR OLED display and 120Hz refresh rate, so it could offer a pretty striking visual experience.
Plus we’re also seeing some interesting new takes on the concept – the HTC Vive Flow connects to a user’s phone wirelessly as a means of control and media viewing, for example.
So, no, it’s not exactly the new Sony VR headset we’ve all been asking for. But more details on the previously-confirmed PS5 VR headset are expected in the new year. You can keep up with everything we know about that headset, which hasn’t officially been called PSVR 2, right here.
It’s PlayStation VR’s 5th birthday, so I’m going to do what we should all try to do on birthdays: say something really nice about it. Something that, as a life-long PlayStation user, I don’t say lightly.
PSVR was the best peripheral Sony’s gaming division has ever made. There, I said it.
Sony’s history with console peripherals and spin-offs has been, let’s face it, a little rocky. For every time PlayStation captured a certain market with a specific concept, there were two or three other attempts that didn’t quite take off. The PS2-era SingStar mics and Buzz controllers found a home in Europe, but the PS3’s Move controllers struggled to truly differentiate themselves in the face of the technically simplified — and much cheaper — Nintendo Wii.
This is true even of its side-projects like the PS Vita. That handheld was, for all intents and purposes, a little miracle of a device, but a lack of software support and the increasing shift towards mobile games really hurt its chances. The general trepidation around launching a VR headset on PS4 was certainly understandable, then.
Five years on, I’d argue PSVR was not only the rare PlayStation peripheral success story (or at least relative success story), but the best side-venture Sony has pursued in PlayStation’s 25+ year history.
That verdict was far from assured. PSVR faced an uphill battle as a $399 add-on for an already expensive console that also required a complicated sprawl of wires for an experience that — at the time — precious few people could attest to. Not to mention that the headset used the already-aged Move controllers and a tracking system that couldn’t keep up with you if turned your back away from a camera. Overall it seemed like a much bigger risk than motion controllers or karaoke microphones.
But PSVR, and VR in general, proved too interesting a prospect for many developers to ignore. The headset had a surprisingly strong launch lineup that let you become Batman, drive a tank, race cars and pilot a spaceship. None of this content resembled the top-end of PlayStation’s usual output, like the impeccably produced Uncharted series or the God of War reboot, but it was a diverse portfolio that really scratched at something not often seen in the gaming market, something genuinely new. Even if a lot of the content coming to PSVR was on the scrappy side, you had to respect the sheer amount of innovation in the scene.
And that’s true of the wider library five years on. There are perhaps only a handful of truly incredible, fully native PSVR games. Astro Bot’s breadth of charming ideas certainly comes to mind, as do the genuinely unique experiences offered in The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners and Superhot VR. But the platform is in no short supply of good, even great attempts to bring beloved genres, franchises and even entirely different gaming experiences to VR. Iron Man VR’s archnemesis might’ve been limited computing power, but it delivered on its core goal of thrilling superhero combat. Hitman 3 didn’t fully implement motion controls, but sneaking through corridors by physically leaning provided a fresh angle on Agent 47’s adventures. Even if this wasn’t the definitive way to play the game, it was a truly different experience that didn’t feel shoehorned in.
These were games that had developers tapping at the glass ceiling if never smashing right the way through it. But, given just how unwieldy VR development remains even five years on, that’s kind of enough.
But PSVR’s successes can’t be attributed to Sony on its own. Yes, the platform holder was no doubt instrumental to securing giant exclusives like Resident Evil 7 and, more recently, Hitman 3, but a lot of PSVR’s best games have come from developers’ desire to create something previously unseen. In Stockholm, former DICE and King developers gathered for a fresh start with studios like Fast Travel Games. In Seattle, people that once worked on Halo took a chance on Moss and in the process unearthed a unique layer of player/protagonist relationships we hadn’t really seen before.
Artists that hadn’t really made games before like Innerspace created A Fisherman’s Tale, which provided possibly the most mind-bending puzzle experience of the past few years. Even the sci-fi blockbuster action of the PlayStation-published Farpoint was born out of a former Sony developer’s experiments with a gun-shaped controller.
It’s that hunger to break the mold that really sustained PSVR during a time in which bigger publishers were hesitant to commit to the wider medium. And these titles have led the headset to a respectable milestone: 5 million units sold as of January 2020. Now, compared to the many millions of units the PS4 itself has shifted, that’s nothing. But stacked up against the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift headsets it released alongside it’s thought to be the clear winner (the lifetime sales of those two devices was never fully revealed). It’s a modest landmark to say the least but it served as a rare beacon of encouragement until VR headsets could become cheaper, more accessible and ultimately much more viable products.
As the headset has aged, it’s faced tougher challenges. PC VR headsets got better and cheaper, with tracking systems that practically fossilized Sony’s solution, and the sublime simplicity of the Oculus Quest has made it increasingly tougher to stand its ground as we wait for PS5 VR. And yet, somehow, the platform has still had notable releases even in 2021 with Hitman 3, Song in the Smoke and Fracked.
But it is time, though, to look beyond. PSVR has had a great run, better than many had expected it to, in fact. I can’t wait to see Sony bring this level of commitment to a new device on a machine far more capable of delivering complex, visually-rich VR titles and (hopefully) with much better tracking. It’s the story I’m most looking forward to covering in 2022.
But PSVR made plenty of magic with the tools it was given. At a time when VR’s future was far from certain, it proved to be the little headset that could. And I’ll remember every moment of eye-opening immersion, every struggle to get a Move controller to properly calibrate, every terrible VR movie tie-in and every unbridled scream of jump scare terror with immense fondness.