Sony’s trickle of information about its future in virtual reality continued on Tuesday with the surprise announcement of an unsurprising name: PlayStation VR2. Thankfully, the name comes with a dump of specs that confirm Sony’s aspirations to deliver one of the most robust VR systems yet on the consumer market.
The upcoming VR add-on, which will require a PlayStation 5 to function, is still missing crucial stats like a release date, a price, or even a photo of what the primary headset will look like. In some ways, it’s reminiscent the Meta Quest 2 (formerly Oculus Quest 2), as it includes a comparable pixel resolution (2,000 x 2,040 pixels per eye, or roughly 15.7 percent more than Quest 2’s per-eye count), a comparable field-of-view of 110 degrees, and a comparable “inside-out” array of cameras that will track a user’s space without requiring an external device like the original PSVR’s webcam.
It’s thinking (and watching)
We previously knew that PSVR2 would require a hardwired connection to PlayStation 5 consoles, unlike the default wireless freedom of Quest 2. Today, however, Sony revealed two potentially huge differentiators over its VR headset competition: haptic feedback, and internal eye-tracking.
Neither of those features has been built directly into consumer-grade VR headsets prior to PSVR2, and the combination could be a major difference maker in the world of immersive gaming and entertainment. With haptic feedback, Sony’s announcement suggests that users might “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.” Eye tracking, meanwhile, is advertised primarily as a form of control, so that in-game elements like characters can respond directly to a user’s gaze.
But Sony also mentions the technical benefits that eye tracking can bring, as part of a system known as “foveated rendering.” With such a system in place, wherever a user’s pupil isn’t aimed, a VR system can dynamically add blur and reduce pixel count in a way that natural peripheral vision might not perceive. And with fewer pixels being rendered, VR software can run at the faster frame rates that the standard demands. Commercial VR headsets have very little in the way of formal foveated rendering systems, with only select HTC headsets employing the feature—and not in a way universally embraced by VR game developers. Having such an efficient standard on a popular platform like PlayStation, on the other hand, will likely accelerate its adoption.
And in a serious piece of good news for PSVR2’s potential screen quality, Sony confirmed that its new system will use an “HDR”-rated OLED panel, not fast-switching LCD. Most major modern VR headsets have skipped the pricier OLED standard for some time, but suffice it to say, OLED’s pure black levels and highly responsive pixels are a boon in VR—and are rated to refresh as quickly as 120 Hz inside of PSVR2.
A good view of the VR Horizon
The only other truly new information in Tuesday’s announcement is a very brief game announcement for something dubbed Horizon VR: Call of the Mountain. This game appears to put VR players into the perspective of that series’ lead character Aloy while she explores a very Horizon-like forest full of oversized robots. But how exactly she’ll interact with that world in VR remains incredibly unclear, thanks to a teaser trailer that includes nothing in the way of hand movement, motion, or other VR-specific action.
In today’s announcement, Sony reconfirmed its plans for a totally overhauled pair of default controllers, now dubbed PlayStation VR2 Sense Controllers. Sony had already taken the wraps off these Quest-like controllers in March of last year, at which point the company confirmed they would include a lot of the fine-tuned rumbling found in PS5’s DualSense.
The Tuesday announcement follows a Saturday report from a Chinese outlet that suggests PSVR2’s production line would begin in the very near future as part of Sony’s plans to launch the VR system by the end of 2022. If such factory-based leaks persist, perhaps we’ll get a glance at the hardware before Sony wants us to see it—which would help us confirm whether it uses a brand-new “pancake” system of flatter lenses to reduce headset size and more closely resemble comfortable glasses.
This article has been updated since publication to clarify PSVR2’s formal announcement about foveated rendering.