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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  • Sean Lumly

    I would be open to buying a PSVR 2, or whatever. But the tracking must be perfect and the resolution sound for me to consider it seriously. There are enough games exclusive (and damn good looking) to justify the upgrade and to give me another chance with the headset.

    My fingers are crossed that tracking is improved dramatically!

    I’m considering the PS4 Pro, but will more likely just wait for the PS5 (I’m guessing announced or launching in 2019). A PSVR2 refresh around this time would be just perfect!

    • Fear Monkey

      The PS PRo is worth it if your a big fan of PSVR, games just look better using it, plus the USB slot in the back makes it easier.
      It will be awhile before we see a PSVR 2 and PS5, not till 2020 in my opinion. By then though, 4K VR should be easy for consoles, maybe even higher resolutions or 4K each eye.

      • Sean Lumly

        Nice! Yeah, I’ll probably end up getting a PS4 Pro, sometime next year! I love VR (though PSVRs tracking really hurts the experience for me — but I hold out hope for improvement) so any improvements via the Pro will be well worth it. But I really am ready to move onto PSVR2.0!

        I just learned that Ratchet & Clank has 4K support. I’m already in love!

        • Fear Monkey

          IF you have a 4k TV, ratchet and Clank is supposed to look amazing.

          • Sean Lumly

            I *love* the game in 1080p (I am perhaps 60% through my third playthrough) and would love to see it at 4K!

          • Dazkus

            In 4k it’s nuts, the hair, lighting and richness of color is rediculous, made me stop multiple times on second playthrough (when I got the Pro).

          • Sean Lumly

            That’s good to know! I bet viewing it in HDR is fantastic!

    • Robert Cole

      I spent months on the Vive platform, using modified HMDs and overclocked top end PC’s with super sampling also doing “room scale plus” experimentation in industrial premises; truly mind blowing stuff.

      Never looked at the PSVR after reading negative reports by testers (tracking, display, etc.), but recently got to spend 30 minutes in Farpoint VR on PS4 Pro and the new Aim controller.

      Very impressed with the lenses and display panel, HMD ergonomics very good, really changed my mind about PSVR. the 1 million sales announced recently bodes well for the platform and VR in general.

      I’m currently waiting for 2nd generation PC VR before I reinvest, so perhaps a PSVR is a good stop gap?

      • Sean Lumly

        I’d second that decision! The first gen’s tracking is pretty bad, but only for games that have you close to static objects (eg. a wall). Outside of this, it’s hard to note the floaty chracteristic of the tracking. I expect it would work really with with Farpoint for this reason.

        And I’m stoked that Sony seems to be bullish on 3rd person VR! It is a BIG deal, and it is very welcome to see.

        I’m probably going to get the aim controller and Farpoint when there is a sale and will definitely upgrade to PSVR2 if they solve the tracking problem. But I’m also going to be spending around 3 to 4K on a gaming PC pretty soon including a VR headmount (SteamVR — vive, pimax, elf, etc).

        • Robert Cole

          The next generation PC VR (Q3/4 2018?) will see quite considerable gains in processing power with new PC built around Intel Coffee lake CPU/Nvidia Volta GPU.

          Cannot wait? In meantime I’m trying everything I can find to demo/test. Cellphone contract finishes next month so perhaps pick up a Pixel or galaxy S8 with a free Daydream or Gear VR 2 hmd 😎

          • Sean Lumly

            Yeah, I’m holding out for 2nd gen PC VR. It looks like a significant leap over Gen 1, which is already incredible!

            I will be getting a Galaxy S8 as well (along with a Gear VR). I just wish that mobile VR had some form of positional tracking. Lets hope that daydream (or some app) uses the camera to enable some form of tracking!

          • Robert Cole

            Perhaps the new htc Vive standalone HMD with Google’s Worldsense tracking could be the missing link?

            Going forward I’d expect to see self contained HMD with some local processing, but heavy compute done by cloud resources

          • Sean Lumly

            I’m a developer targeting mobile VR (but also PC and hopefully console), so I’m really hoping for competent positional tracking on mobile (fingers crossed for Daydream’s solution) as it is the missing link for an incredible, untethered VR experience!

          • Robert Cole

            I believe the PC VR will always be “dev kit” territory to some degree, which is perhaps what enthusiasts want!

            From my frustrations with the Vive’s tether (shared by all the researchers in our Room scale Plus lab experiments) the quicker we ditch the tether, the quicker the uptake of VR.

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8051f58456fe0c7c763b3627587f7f83ebcfcd56e3c0e554d48fefaa3e779b08.jpg

            I purchased a first batch TP Cast off a reseller, which unfortunately was lost by the courier, the tether became a limiting factor in our scaling and we tried extending cabling using active cables, with tracking issue.

            The standalone HMD is certainly the future once the technology matures; we are just at that delicate tipping point….

          • Sean Lumly

            Yes precisely! That is why PCVR is an obvious choice for a platform, and mobile (Android), for that matter, which is PC-like in its openness.

            Do let me know your feelings toward the TP Cast if you ever get a chance to test it out. I’m convinced that wireless is a huge part of reducing the occurrence of being yanked back into reality during virtual exploration.

            Yes, these are early days. I feel that when resolutions increase dramatically (eg. 4x), focus is simulated, devices are wireless, and the field-of-view has increased considerably, VR will be so compelling an experience, device comfort has been mastered, it will be nearly impossible (outside of rational reminder or lack of physical cues) to ‘feel’ as though you are anywhere but the VR world.

          • Robert Cole

            I honestly would have paid double the price of the vive to get a tetherless version. We found at large domestic scale 4×4 the Tether was less trouble (it’s stretched) going back to small domestic scale you end up with more entanglement as you physically move in a smaller space, causing the 3-in-1 cable to bind/coil. I won’t mention the shift in optical sweet spot when tether tugs on HMD….

  • Ted Joseph

    I sold my PSVR, and kept the Rift. Why? Because the PS Move controllers are horrific, and there is no third sensor for 360 tracking… The headset was actually very good. Sony needs to correct the move controllers before they consider any other improvement in my opinion…