By now, most people will be aware that Sony has invested a lot of time and energy in its flagship Virtual Reality project known as PlayStation VR (also miswritten as Playstation VR) or PSVR for short. But what exactly is virtual reality and how do you know if it’s for you?
In 1950, Italian physicist Enrico Fermi sat down for lunch with his colleagues at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and posited a simple question. If the Universe is so enormous, then where are all the aliens? Many great minds wrestled with this “Fermi Paradox.”
They offered numerous explanations as to why the apparent contradiction held.
Some argued that periodic extinctions kept the number of civilizations low. Others suggested that the Earth might just so happen to be inside a galactic nature reserve. The less optimistic among these thinkers simply felt that we are alone in the universe.
Still, one of the more compelling solutions to Fermi’s throw-away observation rests on the nature of reality itself. For humans at least, the constraints of the physical universe tend to chafe. As a species, we dream of soaring through skies, or else of exploring strange new worlds in ships capable of improbable velocities.
We imagine ourselves walking on the ocean floor or daydreaming about what it would be like to be a movie star, astronaut, or superhero. Such dreams are vivid and exciting and pay no heed to real-world limitations.
So why not create a virtual universe and play in a world bereft of rules? The technology to explore outer space marches in step with the ability to create an inner space of our own. Reality – bland by comparison – loses its luster. As Exploration slows to a crawl and then ceases entirely, E.T stays home.
PlayStation VR Technical Specifications
To be clear, PlayStation VR is no substitute for reality. As one of several early-adopter forays into the VR market, it is defined as much by its limitations as it is by its technical achievements. If humanity ever chooses to live in a Matrix-style rule-free fantasy, it will not do so for some time to come.
The technology just is not there yet. This is not to say that Sony has not poured incredible amounts of time, effort, love, and expertise into its flagship PlayStation VR project.
Back in March, Sony cut the price of PSVR down to a rather tempting $299 and in doing so, positioned itself as the only real entry point for VR enthusiasts. For that price, you get (almost), everything you need.
The camera, headset, and cables are included as well as a download code for VR worlds – a collection of VR experiences made by Sony themselves.
Sony’s PlayStation Move motion controllers require an additional expense. Fortunately, most games are playable without them although the experience tends to diminish without the added immersion of being able to sway your arms around brings.
At any rate, Sony highlights those games that categorically need the move controller. So it is best to check before you buy. Of course, the system itself requires either a PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 4 Pro to function.
The VR Experience
Setting up the VR set takes a little patience. First and most importantly a safe play area has to be chosen and then cleared of all obstacles. The VR system tracks motion through the use of the camera which needs to be set up next to – or on top of – the TV connected to your PlayStation.
The Play area itself should be around seven feet away from the camera. Since the VR headset restricts vision, it is essential that you remove anything breakable or liable to constitute a tripping hazard before play begins.
Which PS VR Version Should You Get?
Both the camera and processor unit plug into the back of the PlayStation. The processor unit resembles a small black rectangle that acts as a hub for cables going into and out of both the VR unit and the PlayStation 4 console.
Confusing the issues somewhat is the existence of two versions of Playstation VR.
Version 1 of the PSVR set came out before the widescale adoption of 4K televisions with High Dynamic Range (HDR), capabilities. While the PSVR set is incapable of displaying 4K or HDR itself, the initial releases saw users having to unplug the processor unit to enjoy 4K/HDR visuals on the big screen.
Of course, this is a somewhat tiresome chore. Thankfully, Version 2 of the PSVR corrected this problem. Even for those still using standard HD televisions, it’s recommended to future-proof the purchase by going for the V2 model. The V1 model number is CUH-ZVR1, while V2 is CUH-ZVR2.
Other VR Sets
To be sure, PlayStation VR is not the only virtual reality set out there. Samsung and Google both released budget options for mobile phones, but neither offering delivers a true VR gaming experience. As a consequence, the market quickly became dominated by just three serious contenders: PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC’s Vive.
- The Oculus Rift family
- HTC Vive and Vive Pro
- Tipping the scale
- The Downside
- Veteran VR
PSVR Pros and Cons
- Affordable entry point VR
- Huge catalog of quality software
- A growing library of games
- Not suitable for children under the age of 12
- Prolonged play can induce nausea
- Some games feel shoehorned in
Sony set out to make VR gaming a mainstream affair, and they have mostly succeeded in that task. With over 70 million PlayStation 4’s installed in living rooms across the globe PlayStation VR positioned itself as a peripheral geared toward mass consumption. Software companies responded positively to the marketing push. As a consequence, the PSVR enjoys a broader range of quality VR content than any of the competitors currently on the market. Its robust design and brand familiarity have pushed it toward being the go-to VR experience for most consumers.
PSVR might not offer the best VR experience out there, but, its low buy-in combined with a robust software library makes it hard to resist.