In a somewhat surprising announcement at CES, Sony has spilled the beans on what’s in store for the Playstation 5’s next-gen Virtual Reality hardware, and it sounds like Sony is really swinging for the fences this time around. Dubbed Playstation VR2, or PSVR2 for short, the upcoming hardware marks a dramatic upgrade from the the current PlayStation VR hardware, and it will likely position Sony as leader in the VR market as well, at least for people who enjoy console gaming.
Though Sony had previously offered several details on what the next-gen VR experience would offer, today’s announcement delivers specifications for the hardware that VR aficionados were eagerly awaiting. The only “bad” news in Sony’s announcement is the company didn’t release a single photo of any new hardware, and there’s also no information about when it will come to market, or how much it will cost. Harumph.
Though it would be easy to start this paragraph off with a phrase like, “the biggest news is,” but (almost) all of the specs are pretty big news, so let’s take them one-by-one. First off, the OLED displays used by the current headset are getting quite a resolution upgrade, going from an ancient 1920 x 1080 resolution to 2000 x 2040 per-eye, at the same 90/120Hz refresh rate as the current model. That resolution is comparable to the Meta Quest 2 headset, which offers 1832×1920 per-eye, and higher than that of the Valve Index, which offers 1440 x 1600 per-eye. The PSVR2’s field of view is relatively unchanged at 110 degrees, which is similar to the Quest 2’s but not as wide as the Index’s, which is 135 degrees.
Another big change is Sony is moving to inside-out tracking, so it’s ditching the external camera system used by the current PSVR that is needed to track the headset and controllers. Inside-out tracking is generally considered superior to having to use external hardware to track the headset because it allows for more freedom.You also don’t need to find an ideal space to install tracking hardware. This can be an issue for the Valve Index, which uses two Base Stations for full-room tracking.
Sony is also adding eye-tracking and foveated rendering for PSVR2, which is a really big deal and could allow for a significant increase in performance. Foveated rendering is a technique for boosting performance in VR that we first heard about in 2013 at an AMD Fusion event. Because the headset can track your pupils and knows where you are looking, it also knows where you aren’t looking. Detail levels in areas you aren’t watching can be reduced, diverting more horsepower to the areas of the scene where detail levels need to be highest. Better eye-tracking in-games could also allow for more immersive VR experiences by allowing your gaze to trigger scenes or control objects.
Another new twist is the headset will allow what Sony calls “headset feedback,” which sounds like haptic feedback basically. Sony says this feedback is controlled by a single motor embedded in the headset that adds “vibrations,” and it lists the following scenarios that could enrich gameplay: “For example, gamers can feel a character’s elevated pulse during tense moments, the rush of objects passing close to the character’s head, or the thrust of a vehicle as the character speeds forward.” Maybe it’s just us but this sounds like a feature that could easily be either awesome or really annoying, so we’ll have to wait until we find out how subtle it is in the future.
Lastly, the controllers are also getting an upgrade too, and are now called PlayStation VR2 Sense Controllers, which ties in with the feedback system that’s been added to the headset. They include some features of the PS5’s standard DualSense controllers, and will included haptic feedback and adaptive triggers which allow for variable pressure dictated by the gaming situation. They are also able to detect individual fingers in their respective locations, according to an announcement from last year, and will be tracked by the headset.
All of this information is just another sign that Sony seems to be really serious about making VR happen, to borrow a phrase. There was some question as to whether this would be true. While the PSVR sold over 5 million units and outstripped all of its original competitors like the Oculus Rift / Rift S and the HTC Vive, cheap headsets like the Quest 2 have moved more than 10 million units in less time. While the Quest 2 competes in a different market than PSVR2, it wasn’t clear how much effort Sony was going to put into building a follow-up for its platform.
The fact that they announced specs for their new hardware almost a year after announcing that they had new hardware in the pipeline, makes it seem like it might not be their top priority at the moment. Add to that the fact that today’s announcement includes zero information about pricing and availability and you have a situation where once again VR enthusiasts have to wonder if this generation of console hardware will finally allow VR to cross over from a niche thing into the mainstream.