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Sony unveils its own virtual reality headset for PlayStation 4

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Project Morpheus
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Project Morpheus

Virtual reality just got a lot more real.

After months of whispers, Sony confirmed Tuesday evening that it's working on a virtual reality headset for the PS4. And while it didn't give any details regarding a release window or price, Sony's entry into this market further raises the profile of so-called VR 2.0 devices, building on the momentum Oculus started with their anticipated Rift device.

Sony showed off a prototype of the headset, called “Project Morpheus,” at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. Shuhei Yoshida, president of SCE Worldwide Studios, said while the company has been prototyping VR headsets since 2010, it finally thinks it has it right.

"Virtual reality is the next innovation from SCE that we believe will shape the future of games," said Yoshida in a blog post after the demonstration. "I have long dreamed about VR and the possibilities it brings in regards to game development. This new technology will deliver a sense of presence, where you as the player actually feel like you’re inside the game and your emotions feel that much more real."

Several game developers have actually had early prototypes of the system in-house for months and have been big proponents of what Sony is doing. To showcase how far along it’s come, Sony is showing playable demos of Eve Valkyrie (which had been thought to be exclusive to Oculus) and recent release Thief, along with two other demos, on the GDC show floor this week.

The prototype for Morpheus looks a bit different than the Rift. The headset features built-in accelerometers and gyroscopes and works in conjunction with the PlayStation Camera to keeps the image steady and track user head movements. The unit shows images in 1080p resolution,offers a 90 degree field of view, and boasts a new 3D audio technology that extends the VR effects beyond the visual world, Sony says.

Sony's ambitions seem to extend a bit further than what we've seen with the Rift, though. While it’s currently tethered to the PS4 via a 15-foot cable, the prototype includes a breakout box between the headset and the console which can split the signal onto another display (i.e. a TV), letting others see what you're seeing and opening up the door for multiplayer gaming.

And while Morpheus is tied to the PS4 for now, Sony is not positioning the device as a PlayStation peripheral, indicating the company could have larger ambitions for it, including, perhaps, their handheld Vita system.

"At SCE we view innovation as an opportunity to build on our mission to push the boundaries of play," said Yoshida. "Project Morpheus is the latest example of innovation from SCE, and we're looking forward to its continued development and the games that will be created as development kits get into the hands of content creators."

So when is it coming out and what can people expect to pay? Your guess is as good as ours, though we'd be shocked if it came in anywhere under $200. Even development partners say they're in the dark, as the timeline for Morpheus have shifted several times over the past year.

“We’re coming out as soon as possible for as low as possible,” Sony senior software engineer Anton Mikhailov told GDC attendees.

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