Up until last week the advent of virtual reality (VR) technology was a kind of one horse race. Oculus VR’s Oculus Rift has undoubtedly spent the last few years in the spotlight as the de facto standard in VR videogaming. Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) had a thing or two to say about that when it lifted the lid on its own VR headset, Project Morpheus, at the Game Developers Conference last week.
Oculus VR hit back the day after with the reveal of its second developer kit, dubbed DK2, but now the company has to share that spotlight. Following that, yesterday revealed that Facebook had bought the company for $2 billion USD, meaning the company is likely no longer restricted by budget. Does either headset have the advantage at this early stage? VRFocus takes a look below.
Keep in mind two things when reading the analysis below. Firstly, this is based purely on both device’s spec sheets. VRFocus has spent time with both headsets but won’t be offering the definitive verdict on either one here. Also remember that these aren’t the final versions of either product. Both are due for design overhauls before a consumer release.
Looking at the specs, the Oculus Rift DK2 has a slight edge over Project Morpheus when it comes to display. While both output at a crisp 1080p, Oculus VR has chosen an OLED display against Sony’s LCD panel. OLED technology is said to reduce latency for head-tracking for one thing, hence why Oculus VR replaced the LCD panel in its own DK1 set. The company has also been a little more specific with its output methods, with low persistance technology that should eliminate motion blur.
Meanwhile, Sony hasn’t gone into too much detail about the panel used for Project Morpheus, perhaps in the assumption that it will all be iterated on in the near future. It did however reveal that Morpheus allows for a 90 degree field of view (FOV), which Oculus Rift slightly edges out at 100 degrees.
Both the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus use accelerometers and gyroscopes to track head movements. Both headsets also have cameras for positional tracking, meaning a user can move up, down, forwards, backwards, left or right and have their movements replicated in a title. This was one of the big additions to DK2.
The Oculus Rift uses one other component for tracking that Project Morpheus doesn’t boast; a magnetometer. This helps to calculate where the device is facing by combating yaw drift error, something that leads to slight inaccuracies on compases. Just how drastic its effect are is unknown but it certainly works in Oculus’ favour to have it on board.
Audio is one area that SCE seems to be making stirdes to improving in. Neither Project Morpheus nor Oculus Rift come with built-in audio solutions, though the former does have an audio output jack. Project Morpheus also boasts an audio processor that is designed to replicate 3D sound.
If the system works as SCE claims it does then audio should work in tandem with the heeadset’s 3D visuals. That is to say sounds should be heard from the right distance and position. If something clicks behind you, you’ll know to turn around to see it. It could prove vital to instilling that sense of presence that these headsets want to replicate, though we’ll just have to wait and see how it really works. If Oculus is working towards a similar type of solution is currently unknown.
Control input for VR is something that doesn’t have a definitive answer to just yet, but at least SCE and Oculus VR are both providing different options for users. Oculus VR has the advantage here, with the open ended nature of the PC leading to a range of different solutions. While gamepads and motion controls work, companies such as YEI Technology and Virtuix are developing full-bodied motion input to help place users inside an experience.
That said, Sony already has two perfectly useable input methods in the Dualshock 4 and PlayStation Move motion controllers. With the PlayStation Camera used for tracking, the PlayStation 4 could deliver accurate motion control for VR experiences. If these methods evolve to suit VR is really on the company to work on.