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Sony’s Project Morpheus reveal bodes well for the Oculus Rift

With the reveal of Sony’s virtual reality hardware at GDC last week, VR technology took another small step toward the mainstream of consumer tech, and a potential competitor to Oculus’ Rift emerged on the horizon – but Oculus is not worried.

In hardware terms, Sony’s prototype VR tech – codenamed Project Morpheus – stacks up fairly well against the current Rift development kit.

Both devices run at 1080p (or 960×1080 per eye), although the field of view offered by Sony’s device is 10 degrees narrower than Oculus’ latest design at 90 degrees. The displays in Sony’s device also use LCD technology as opposed to the OLED panels in the Rift; Oculus’ use of ‘low persistence’ OLED in recent dev kits has allowed it to significantly reduce motion blur, and the motion sickness associated with it. On the other hand, Project Morpheus’ additional sensors enable full 360 degree head tracking, allowing users to look behind them while wearing the device. This feature was put to effective use by Sony in recent demonstrations.

What does all this mean for the consumer though?

These are very early days for VR technology. The question of whether virtual reality in its current form will ever gain mainstream acceptance remains unanswered. Both sets of hardware are still in development; hardware specifications are subject to change, and Sony has made clear that its Project Morpheus may never see general release.

But Oculus’ hardware has provided a tantalizing glimpse of what could be, wowing journalists even in its unfinished state.

Oculus can only be buoyed by Sony’s interest in VR tech. Oculus’ mission is to prove the virtual reality concept. The high-profile demonstration of a VR prototype from a consumer-electronics giant such as Sony further illustrates the potential of the technology, and works to pique the interest of AAA software developers. Oculus’ recent acquisition by Facebook for USD 2bn on March 25 highlights this point.

In truth, in their final forms, the two devices look likely to compete for different audiences. The Oculus looks set to release first – if Sony’s device ever sees the light of day – and be snapped up by PC hardware enthusiasts. Sony will wait until Oculus has shown VR’s salability before bringing Project Morpheus to the Playstation 4, offering console audiences the more polished VR experiences tested on Oculus hardware.

Virtual Reality is far from proven then, but Sony’s interest in the technology illustrates its potential.  Time will tell what the future holds for VR.

For more on Sony and the future of the Playstation 4, take a look at our case study on the battle between Sony and Microsoft in the console market.

For more on Facebook’s corporate acquisition strategy, see our case study on the company’s WhatsApp purchase.

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