What’s that? I thought. I was at Sony’s Playstation Experience event, having just played some Battlefield 3 single player for the first time. A few metres away, a man was sitting in front of a high def TV, wearing what looked very much like a VR headset. Were those still a thing? I had flashbacks to the mid ’90s, when a thirteen-year-old me would read and reread articles in PC Gamer about the latest VR technology, 320×240 pixel displays atwinkle in my mind’s eye.
The screen the headset-wearing man was not looking at (though he was facing it with apparently rapt attention) was showing an unexciting little montage of… well, mostly a dude wearing the same headset. Also, explosions (and, Wugga claims, a Police officer break-dancing on the bonnet of a car). At last I noticed that he held a Dualshock controller. He was playing a game. I insinuated myself into line for a turn. I was not going to miss out on the chance to fullfil a need I just that moment realised I had harboured for more than half my life.
After some simple adjustment, I got the setup wrapped around my dome. It’s lighter than it looks, this thing, and immediately comfortable.
In front of each my eyeballs was a tiny high def display. The focus was good, though I noted there seemed to be a good range of adjustment. And oh, look at that. 3D. I didn’t even notice straight away, it seemed so natural. None of the leakage, or “cross-talk” in Sony-speak, that plagues even well-regarded 3D TV brands (*cough* Sony *cough*) was in evidence. Being two separate displays, the clever polarisation or shutter tech featured in a typical 3D display is unnecessary. Each gets its own little scene. Just like in real life.
It really does make all the difference. Focusing and refocusing on the fore- or background didn’t require that split second of conscious thought that I’ve found is necessary even in the cinema. In fact, I’ll say it outright: It was the best 3D display I’ve ever clapped eyes on. Or, in this case, clapped on my eyes. Nothing else I’ve experienced comes close.
The game was a Motorstorm affair. Racing a quad bike against various other vehicles through a city that seemed to be in the process of getting pretty thoroughly 2012ed. It wasn’t the most exciting thing I’ve ever played, but it served its purpose.
The headset boasts one of those stereo headphone setups that claims to emulate a full surround environment. In the noisy environment of the Playstation Experience (King Kapisi was on stage by this time), it was a bit hard to tell.
While most of my vision was taken up by the displays and the shell of the unit, the area below the displays is left open, allowing me to see the controller in my hands, and reach for my beer and take a swig without embarassing spillage. That’s an important thing; being able to see without having to remove the unit from one’s face, but without allowing annoying levels of light in.
The unit has a single lead for power, image and sound, that comes from its dedicated input box. The box has multiple HDMI inputs, which can be selected via buttons on the headset itself.
Sony are justifiably proud of the picture quality, courtesy of bling new OLED 720p displays that boast excellent contrast and make fast-moving gaming type things appear a lot smoother (and less nauseating) than a conventional 3D TV.
So yes, I sound like a raving fanboy, but seldom have I been so impressed by a piece of hardware.
Anyway, pricing has yet to be announced, but it’s expected to be somewhere around the $1,000 mark when it lobs here, probably next February.