E3 2017: Sony Video Talks Future PSVR Upgrades: A.I., Focus Variation And More

by Jamie Feltham • June 13th, 2017

Just like any other VR headset, Sony’s PlayStation VR (PSVR) leaves plenty of room for improvement, and the company’s R&D division has a few ideas on where to take it on both a software and hardware level.

Dominic Mallinson, Senior Vice President of R&D at Sony Interactive Entertainment, spoke a little about the current areas of VR that the group is looking into in a video that ran before the company’s E3 press conference yesterday. You can see it below, the clip starts at around 43:20.

As we’ve heard before, Sony seems very interested in artificial intelligence, and using it to create believable virtual characters.

Mallinson spoke about ‘natural language understanding’, which he compared to voice operated platforms like Apple’s Siri, Amazon Echo. “Imagine you could use that to actually talk to game characters, to actually have a dialogue,” he said.

Building on that, the company’s also interested in affecting the virtual world around you with gaze tracking. Mallinson spoke about using the direction the player was looking to change the virtual world around them. You might stare at a character, for example, who might become uncomfortable after continued surveillance. Note his wording doesn’t specifically say eye-tracking, which would give games more accurate info about where a user is looking, but would require an upgrade on the hardware front.

Mallinson isn’t ruling out hardware upgrades though. He also spoke about VR displays, and the importance of integrating focus variation to simulate our real world vision.

“Now the eye does this all the time, and you don’t really think about it,” Mallinson said. “But in VR that doesn’t happen today.”

Indeed, when you put on a VR headset, everything in sight is perfectly in focus. It may not distract you — you may not even realise it — but this isn’t natural.

“What we want to do is we also want to bring that in so we have re-focusing in virtual reality,” Mallinson added. He said that, in the future, he believes headsets will be able to deliver both focus variation and 3D images. “That will give us the ultimate visual experience,” he said.

Finally, Mallinson looked far into the future with a concept he said was “almost in the realm of science fiction”: brain wave interfaces. With tech that could read the most basic impulses in your brain there’s a world of possibilites for VR.

“This is all ideas, this is all the future, looking just over the horizon,” Mallinard concluded. “And maybe we’ll see it, maybe we won’t.”

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