Everything we know so far about the next PSVR

Sony looks to be stepping it up in a big way for a new generation with the PSVR 2.

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From brand new controller designs to higher-fidelity visuals, there’s a lot to get excited about with the PSVR 2. PlayStation VR on the PS4 has been a success story in some very real ways, and Sony plans to continue that trend on the PS5. With over 5 million units sold and a steady library of games, Sony proved that VR gaming can be successful as an add-on to an already successful console. Sony has confirmed that the PSVR 2 will be a PS5-exclusive release and will debut after 2021 with some exciting new technologies in tow.

If you’ve ever played or own an original PSVR you’ll know that, while it’s a great overall experience, there are certainly some improvements that can be made. Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan says that Sony is focused on making PSVR 2 „the ultimate entertainment experience with dramatic leaps in performance and interactivity.“ Sony’s first announcement for the second-generation PSVR doesn’t give it a name, but it does say Sony is shipping the headset with a higher resolution, wider FoV, DualSense-inspired controllers, and a single-cable connector.

Will the original PSVR work on the PS5?

Yes, Sony does still support the original PSVR on the PS5. In order to use the original PSVR on the PS5, you’ll need to claim a free adapter that connects the PlayStation Eye camera to the PS5, since that dedicated port from the PS4 is gone. The PSVR experience on PS5 is largely identical to what you’re used to on PS4, and that’s because Sony doesn’t allow PS5 games to support the original PSVR. You’ll need a PS4 copy of the game to play on PSVR. All original PSVR accessories also work on the PS5.

Both the PS Move Motion Controllers and the PlayStation VR Aim Controller will work with supported PS VR games on PS5.

Newer titles that ship with VR support, like Hitman 3 for PSVR, actually come with both PS4 and PS5 versions of the game when you buy it. Folks that want to play in VR will need to download the PS4 version of the game and launch it from their PSVR. Many PSVR games will feature enhanced visuals and resolution when running on a PS5, but don’t expect any drastic overhauls, as Sony is not allowing developers to target PS5 hardware with specific enhancements. Think of it like running a more powerful PS4 Pro; at least, that’s sort of how the game is allowed to see things, anyway.

What is the PSVR 2?

The PlayStation VR 2, likely known as the PSVR 2, is Sony’s second-generation VR headset. Sony officially announced the PSVR 2 but has been a bit light on official details for its upcoming next-generation VR platform. The PSVR 2 will connect with the PS5 with a single cable and can be used to interact with virtual reality content on Sony’s next-generation console, which will include games, movies, and social features.

The original PSVR for the PS4 sold very well and is still well-supported to this day. Because of that reason, we’re expecting Sony to go all-out on the technology used for the PSVR 2. Based on what we know, the PSVR 2 should ship with a brand new, redesigned headset, including new motion controllers with touch input. The PSVR 2 will connect to the PS5 via a single cable. It is not known at this time whether Sony plans to offer a wireless version.

What will the PSVR 2 cost?

Sony surprised many in 2016 when it launched the PSVR for $400, which was at least 50% less expensive than its nearest competitor, the Oculus Rift. Now that the overall price of VR headsets has come down, Sony likely won’t hold the price advantage with the PSVR 2 that it had with the original PSVR. We don’t yet know how much the PSVR 2 will cost. It’s likely that Sony will debut the PSVR 2 at around the same price point as its nearest competitor, the Oculus Quest 2, which sell for $300 and up.

Aside from the PlayStation name, one of the biggest reasons to buy an original PSVR over other VR headsets over the years was the sheer cost savings versus many other VR solutions. We’ve seen VR hardware prices drop significantly since consumer VR went big in 2016, and the original PSVR itself can easily be found for less than half the price it launched at so many years ago. As such, we expect Sony to release the PSVR 2 at the same price, or less than what the original PSVR released for.

When will the PSVR 2 be released?

Sony’s official PSVR 2 announcement stated that the hardware would not make a debut in 2021. That means 2022 is the earliest we’ll see a next-generation VR experience from Sony. For now, there are still several titles scheduled to come out for the original PSVR in 2021, including ones that run in enhanced mode on PS5 hardware.

What will the PSVR 2 controllers look like?

With the original PlayStation VR on the PS4, Sony utilized the PlayStation Move controllers that it had demonstrated before it even announced its intentions for virtual reality. At the time, the PS Move controllers looked to be in direct competition with the Nintendo Wii. As such, the form factor worked well enough for VR, but a few issues cropped up eventually. Not only is there no joystick or touchpad for virtual character movement, but the single-point camera system caused dead zones in movement tracking.

The only official information Sony has released thus far is that next-generation PSVR 2 controllers will have „some of the key features found in the DualSense wireless controller.“ While that’s not much to go on, there are plenty of hints about design and functionality that we can draw from patents that Sony has filed recently. The wand-like design of the original PSVR controllers feels great when you’re holding it, but there are a lot of buttons on the controller, and it can get a bit confusing when trying to press buttons during fast action scenes. Some developers, like Iron Man VR developer Camouflaj, got around this by utilizing a unique movement system.

Sony’s latest patent (shown above) shows controllers that look incredibly similar to the Valve Index controllers. That patent shares both design similarities and functionality to the Valve Index controllers, including individual finger tracking and a „swoop“ design that wraps around the back of the player’s hands. These new controllers feature the same number of physical buttons, but in a very different configuration. Instead of the traditional cross pattern, Sony’s latest design seems to feature a more ergonomic button setup.

A single trigger can be seen on the patents, as well as a prominently placed joystick on each controller. This fills an important gap that the current-generation PSVR PS Move controllers have, as there’s no way to virtually move your character with the existing controllers without using teleportation or some other form of physical locomotion, such as arm-swinging or pulling. Joystick movement would help eliminate the need to use the standard PlayStation controller in some games, as it would provide all the input a virtual needed to move a virtual character.

The real meat of the new design can be seen in the video above. If this patent is any indication of what we’ll see in the final product, PSVR 2 controllers will track your entire hand. Sony seems to have developed a truly fantastic solution for delivering full-finger tracking on a controller that doesn’t feel bulky or oversized. The above video features a prototype that, funny enough, utilizes a PC and HTC’s Vive Trackers to motion-track these prototype controllers. The final product will, of course, not require a PC or external trackers like this, but the movements in the video showcase the kind of accuracy Sony is aiming for this time around.

Finger tracking solutions are paramount for making virtual worlds feel more palpable, as you can actually grab and let go of virtual objects, with fingers that move exactly as yours do in real life. Employing finger tracking also means that the PSVR 2 will sport a significantly higher-fidelity virtual reality experience when compared to many current-generation experiences, as the hand-strap will keep the controllers in place even when you completely let go of them. That’ll make actions like throwing objects not only easier but also far more realistic.

Will the PSVR 2 have an improved display and lenses?

Despite its age, the original PSVR’s display remains one of the better VR displays on the market. Even still, Sony says the PSVR 2 will feature a higher-resolution display and a wider field of view (FoV). While there have been no official specs released for the PSVR 2’s display, Sony’s PSVR 2 announcement does cover the improvements a bit ambiguously.

Like many industry players at this point in time, Sony will likely migrate from an OLED panel to what’s called a „fast-switching“ LCD panel. While OLED panels offer infinitely better contrast and deeper colors, fast-switching LCD panels offer a sharper image due to the fact that they use RGB stripe sub-pixel arrangements. Of course, the PSVR’s OLED panel is one of the rare ones that actually uses an RGB stripe sub-pixel arrangement, so Sony could always surprise us with another generation of ultra-high quality OLED panels that don’t use pentile arrangements again.

Regardless of the tech choice Sony makes, we know the PSVR 2’s displays will be higher resolution and feature reduced screen door effect and less mura. The current PSVR displays feature 386 pixel-per-inch (ppi) pixel density, while newer VR displays from companies like JDI push that up to over 1,000 ppi.

But the resolution isn’t the only thing that will be improved. Since the launch of the original PSVR, significant advancements have been made to VR lenses. Next-gen lenses like in the HP Reverb G2 and Valve Index are sure to make an appearance on the PSVR 2, and Sony could even surprise us with something even clearer than Valve and co have come up with.

Sony has also stated that these lenses will allow players to see more of the world around them by expanding the field of view. Interviews from 2019 tell us to expect the FoV to increase from 100 to 120, allowing your eyes to take in more of the detail in the virtual around all around you. The official PSVR 2 announcement confirmed a wider FoV but didn’t specify a number.

Will the PSVR 2 be wireless?

While Sony has patented a method for making a wireless PlayStation VR headset in the future, the official PSVR 2 announcement states that Sony’s second-generation will still be connected via a cable. Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan stated that this will be a single cable and will be simpler than the current PSVR solution. Likely, the PSVR 2 will plug into the USB Type-C port on the back of the PS5, just as some PC VR headsets can connect to a dedicated USB Type-C port on certain graphics cards.

Will the PSVR 2 have better tracking?

Patents show that the PSVR 2 could sport cameras all around the headset, including on the back. That would give it a tracking advantage when compared to Oculus Insight tracking — the technology used on the Oculus Quest, Oculus Quest 2, and Oculus Rift S — which utilizes four or five cameras only on the front of the headset. That means the PSVR 2 should be able to tell exactly where your controllers are no matter where you’re holding them. Right now, current inside-out tracking solutions tend to have dead zones when controllers are placed behind a player’s body or above the player’s head.

The original PSVR’s tracking abilities are limited by the PlayStation Eye camera — a dual-camera system that’s restricted to tracking from a single point. While the PS5 does have its own HD camera, Sony hasn’t said if this camera will also be used for the PSVR. Given the extremely limited range of movement that this type of tracking allows for, it’s unlikely that Sony will use it again in the future. VR systems like the Oculus Quest 2 allow players to freely move around in the physical space they’re in, allowing for far more immersion. That would fit in with Sony’s goal of „an even greater sense of presence“ and a headset that would help players „become even more immersed in their game worlds.“

Will the PSVR 2 be lighter and smaller?

VR technology has come a long way since the original PSVR’s release in Oct. 2016. Part of that tech evolution is the availability of smaller, thinner, and lighter components. While we could assume that Sony is working on a lighter and smaller headset, a job posting from mid-Aug. 2020 states the goal for a „next-generation VR head-mounted display“ from Sony Group.

It’s important to note that this specific job posting states that the project overview is to develop a headset „with a view to five years from now,“ so it’s possible his posting is for the PSVR 3 (or another Sony headset), not the PSVR 2. Even still, there’s little doubt that Sony will have improved the weight and overall design to make the PSVR 2 more comfortable than the current iteration since that’s a standard part of tech improvement on a lot of devices.

Will the PSVR 2 have eye-tracking?

While eye-tracking sounds a little freaky at first, the term eye-tracking is simply a way of the PSVR being able to improve the graphics in the exact places your eyes are looking at. This type of rendering is called Foveated Rendering and means that the PS5 will render only the center of your vision in the highest resolution.

Everything in your peripheral vision will feature a lower resolution (since your eyes automatically lower focus detail on these segments of vision anyway), and help increase the performance of VR games by over 60% in many situations. In the video below, you can see an example from Nvidia that showcases different ways of implementing foveated rendering with eye-tracking. Keep in mind that viewing something like this on a 2D monitor doesn’t give the full effect, as your eyes won’t be able to see the lower-resolution edges the same way in VR space since the system will automatically move the center-point based on your eyes.

Oculus began work on simple foveated rendering with the Oculus Quest last year, but this method breaks apart a bit if you use your eyes to look around more than your head. That’s because the edges of the display are always lower resolution, while Sony’s method would dynamically move this higher-resolution center spot around depending on where your retinas are aimed.

Will the PSVR 2 have face-tracking?

Social networking is looking to take an entirely different meaning with the future of VR. You’ve probably seen plenty of sci-fi films and movies depicting artificial worlds that we’ll all live in one day (think more like Caprica than The Matrix), and a lot of living and socializing in such a world relies heavily on face and body language. Right now, social applications like VRChat are an impressive look at what’s to come in the future. But they’re missing one huge part of communication; body language.

Sure, you can move around freely and express yourself with hand gestures and head movements, but no one can actually see your face or see the nuances our brains pick up when someone is holding their shoulders just a tad lower than usual. Upcoming platforms like Spatial present your actual human face on a virtual avatar, and the difference couldn’t be more noticeable. While these projected faces can look a bit odd at first, there’s no denying they’re considerably more effective than the current environment of Zoom meetings and crappy video cameras.

This one might be a bit further out than the PSVR 2, but there’s still hope that this patent from Sony shows that it’s been worked on for some time and could very well be implemented in a future PSVR release. Having facial tracking means playing with your friends the next Call of Duty in VR could feel far more like an actual experience, as you’ll clearly be able to see what they’re thinking even before they say it.

While the above video showcases Facebook’s Oculus face tracking prototypes from a year ago, it shows that this technology is far more along than some might have supposed. By the time the PSVR 2 actually releases, this technology will be even further along in development and likely far easier to implement into actual games. Like finger tracking, this isn’t necessary for the VR experience, but it goes a long, long way in making it feel significantly more real.

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