As we continue to rush towards the holiday release of the PS5, there are still questions surrounding the system — including whether or not we'll see a PSVR 2. Sony remains committed to virtual reality and that likely means there will be a second iteration of the PlayStation VR headset for the PlayStation 5.
The original PlayStation VR was seen as a marginal success, and VR technology has progressed since the 2016 release of the headset. Smaller, cheaper VR headsets like the Oculus Quest are looking like the way forward for mainstream adoption, while high-end models like the Valve Index are showing how far premium virtual reality can go. Which direction will Sony take for a new PSVR?
- PS5 vs PS5 Digital Edition: Which one is for you?
- The big PS5 games to watch
- Just in: PS5 could have a big problem with PS4 game upgrades
There's been no firm announcement of a PlayStation VR 2, but there have been rumors and patents that point to its existence. So here's everything we know and can infer about the PSVR 2, including its release date, price, and potential specifications.
PSVR 2 release date
The PS5 starts rolling out on November 12 in select regions and the rest of the world on November 19. And by the looks of things, Sony is entirely focused on getting the system out and making that the main purchase for consumers.
"There's no reason for us to coincide it with a new console. From the point of view of the consumer, to be bombarded with many many things — oh, you have to buy this, you have to buy that — is a message that we don't want to send. In some ways, it's good to have a little breathing space between those things," Sony's senior vice president of R&D Dominic Mallinson told CNET when asked about a PlayStation VR 2 release.
The PlayStation 5 focus will likely carry on into early 2021. Perhaps Sony could showcase the new headset next summer, assuming things are back to normal and we get an E3 2021. That means the earliest we would likely see the PSVR 2 is Fall 2021.
That time frame gives PS5 developers more time to add VR modes to their existing titles or make wholly-original VR games. Rockstar is apparently working on "a AAA open world title in VR", according to a LinkedIn post by Video Games Deluxe, the studio behind L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files. Capcom is also planning to release Resident Evil Village in 2021, and that title is the direct follow-up to Resident Evil 7, which was fully playable in VR. And Sony's own Gran Turismo 7 will almost certainly have VR support.
PSVR 2 price
The original PSVR launched at $499 for the full set, which was a bit pricey for the average consumer. It's now down to $349, packaged with newer PlayStation VR games like Iron Man VR. The core set, with just the headset, was $100 cheaper, but it's increasingly hard to find one of those in the wild.
I'd say it's unlikely that Sony is going to release a PlayStation VR headset that costs more than the system again. The new Oculus Quest 2 is a relatively affordable $299, while the Oculus Rift S costs $399. Sony wants to grow its VR fortunes, and it feels like the new PlayStation VR will probably not break $499.
It's likely that Sony will take on Oculus directly and land at the $399 price tag. Combined with the $300-500 of the PS5 itself, that still brings the entire next-gen PlayStation VR platform under the price of the Valve Index, which can cost as much as $999 with accessories and trackers.
PSVR 2 leaks and news
We know for sure that Sony is committed to virtual reality as a future for the PlayStation brand. "I won't go into the details of our VR strategy today beyond saying that VR is very important to us and that the current PSVR headset is compatible with the new console," PlayStation 5 lead system architect Mark Cerny told Wired back in April. There are titles coming to the PlayStation 5, like Hitman 3, which are going to have extensive VR support.
But that's the old headset. What about a new one? Well, there are a few hints towards a future headset. Sony Japan has a job listing for an engineer to work on "the development of next-generation VR". The position isn't specific to the PlayStation division, but at the same time, Sony doesn't currently produce a VR headset for PC or as a standalone platform. That means this is likely for the PSVR 2.
There are also several patents out there that mention new VR hardware. The first is a patent for a system to lower motion sickness in VR. Motion sickness is generally caused by the difference between the movement within VR versus the actual movements of the user's head: you might walk forward in VR, but your body isn't moving, thus leading to a disconnect between what you see and what you feel. That's what causes the motion sickness.
The system in the patent relies on a vibration motor called the "swing control unit". This unit would match the vibrations with the movement and acceleration of the image presented on the headset's screen. It's a way to bring more real-world feedback that's matched to the VR game you're playing, thus reducing motion sickness overall.
Sony also has a host of other patents pointing towards a new headset design. One patent shows the PlayStation VR with updated eye and head tracking, allowing the display of images with further stereoscopic depth than currently available. Another points to a new headset with cameras near the nosegap of a VR headset, which would be used to capture the user's facial expressions in real-time. There's even a patent for a new style of controller which would track the movement of specific fingers and offer haptic feedback, similar to the Oculus Touch or Valve Index controllers.
The most important patent, obtained by LetsGoDigital, outlines a brand-new headset with multiple cameras. Two cameras are included on the front of this potential unit, similar to the new Oculus VR headsets, but the design also adds a camera on the rear strap of the unit and on a new version of the PlayStation Move controller. The patent states that the cameras could be used for a passthrough feature, showing the headset user an image of the real-world around them. These cameras would be joined by an array of LED markers, allowing proper tracking of the PSVR 2.
This last patent also mentions the potential of a wireless headset. The patent says that "signals could be transmitted to the [head-mounted display] by a wired or wireless connection". It further states that Bluetooth could be one method of wireless connection with the console.
All told, the patents point towards a very different version of the PlayStation VR. While patent diagrams retain the same basic shape for the headset, the addition of eye-tracking, facial tracking, and multiple cameras means the PSVR 2 can do so much more. And wireless support would remove the lengthy cable and breakout box attached to the current PSVR.
PSVR 2 specs
Back in 2019, Sony's senior vice president of R&D Dominic Mallinson delivered a talk about the future of VR at PlayStation. "There are over 96 million PlayStation 4s in the market today. And every single one of those is capable of delivering a great VR experience. So we’d like to convert many, many more of those people to be PSVR users. And we won’t just stop with PS4," said Mallinson, according to a report by VentureBeat.
Mallinson pointed to several improvements that are must-have for future VR devices, and many will likely make their way into a new PlayStation VR. Those improvements include display upgrades, like improved resolution, a wider field of view, and high-dynamic range color.
"I would expect the resolution to roughly double in the next set of VR products," he explained. "Along with that, we also need a greater field of view. The human visual system is out to about 180 degrees. Most VR headsets today are about 100 degrees. There are diminishing returns to get wider. But I would expect the next set of products to be roughly 120 degrees in terms of field of view."
Japan Display Inc, a manufacturer formed in collaboration between Sony, Hitachi, and Toshiba, announced an LCD display that fits the bill back in 2018. The 3.25-inch 1001ppi was specifically designed for virtual reality, and is able to operate at 120Hz refresh rate. The resolution of the panel is 2160×2432. Compare that to the current PlayStation VR, which has a 1920×1080 panel with a pretty low 386ppi. Not only does the new display fit Mallinson's requirements, Sony already has access to it.
Mallinson also mentioned a wireless VR headset, like the patent above. "Wireless transmission technology is getting better every day. New technologies such as 60 gigahertz are allowing for these options to become possible for VR products," he said.
"I think that the gaze tracking is the most exciting change that we’ll see in next-gen VR," said Mallinson. "So really, if you look at the history of user input, starting off with keyboards, and then the mouse, and recently touchscreen interfaces, I seriously think that having gaze as a user input is going to be as fundamental as each of those changes we’ve had in the past. That’s my number one point about next-generation VR: Gaze will allow much, much richer user interaction."
PSVR 2 outlook
The future of PlayStation VR is looking bright, even if we don't know when Sony is actually planning on delivering that future. Something is coming, just over the horizon, and Sony's commitment to VR is strong.