With 'Project Morpheus,' Sony steps into the world of virtual reality

Sony's 'Project Morpheus' headset, still in prototype form, would sync up with the PlayStation 4 console. 

People wearing costumes of popular PlayStation game characters pose in front of an advertisement board for the PlayStation 4 game console in this Feb. 21 photo.

Sony has taken the wraps off a virtual reality headset it says "will push the video-game industry forward." 

"Project Morpheus," as the prototype device has been dubbed, was introduced at the Game Developers Conference, the annual confab in San Francisco. The Morpheus works like the Oculus Rift, another VR device currently under development: Gamers strap the thing over their eyeballs, flip a switch, and track the action on the 5-inch display on the headset. 

Unlike the Oculus Rift, however, the Morpheus appears to be a PlayStation exclusive, optimized to sync up with the console's cameras, controllers, and Move. Meanwhile, the device will ship with what Sony is called "3D audio technology" – essentially a miniaturized version of surround sound. 

"In addition to sounds coming from front, behind, left and right, Morpheus re-creates stereoscopic sounds heard from below and above the players, such as footsteps climbing up stairs below them, or engine noises of helicopters flying overhead," reps for Sony wrote in a press release. "Sounds that players hear change in real-time depending on their head orientation, creating a highly realistic audio environment within an immersive 360-degree virtual world." 

Virtual reality has long been seen as the logical next step – along with motion-sensing technology – for console makers. And Sony is clearly betting big on the Morpheus headset, which will likely launch in the next couple of years.

Still, as Scott Stein of CNET points out, there are reasons to be skeptical.  

"[T]hese experiences will need to be pretty amazing to be worth the upsell that Morpheus would inevitably be in addition to owning a PlayStation 4," Mr. Stein writes. "Despite the efforts of many game developers, motion-controlled gaming via Kinect and Move never really took off like Sony and Microsoft imagined. Can VR be different?" 

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