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A Tale of Two VR Headsets

Posted on Sunday, October 14 @ 02:09:25 Eastern by Heath_Hindman

Video games and fire weren't the only things we played with at the Tokyo Game Show. My wife and I also got to try out both versions of Sony's virtual reality headset. I took the Prototype-SR, while she tried out the more publicized HMZ. There are no plans to market the Prototype-SR, but the HMZ is the one being used with video games; it's therefore easy to see why the HMZ is the one getting all the hype.

The reason for Prototype-SR being the subject of no marketing plans probably has something to do with the massive overhead expense and implausibility of replicating the same experiences for everyone. It blends 3D video with what's actually going on, meaning what you see is a mixture of reality and recording. These videos, in order to work the way they do, need to be recorded in 360 degrees. Within the homes of the common folk, this could be a problem.

All of that notwithstanding, the experience was quite amazing for a one-time thing. I could see it being a pretty cool attraction at Epcot Center or something after some moderate tweaking. I said of it in my full impression:
[My guide was] fading in and out, transporting from one side of the room to the other. Was I watching a recording again? She seemed to know what I’d be thinking and challenged by thoughts. 'This is reality,' she said. She held her hand up and begged that I touch it. I slowly complied, half scared I might see my hand go right through hers. But it didn’t. I felt contact with her hand as I expected to. I half anticipated 'I’m here for you, James. You see? I’m real.' to follow. I could see my own hand in front of my face, and yet, there were teleportations going on all around me. I wanted to cling to that hand — to hold it, to cling to my reality as it was being turned upside down. What the hell was going on here?

Janelle's experience was different. Whereas I had a half an hour in a private room, Janelle was playing one of the more popular headsets that had a game hooked up to it. When Muse said, "I don't need another map of your head," perhaps the band should have continued to say, "But Sony does." We talked to several journalists at TGS who'd tried out the HMZ, and none of them claimed to have a good fit.

Is the Japanese version's nose piece a little bit smaller than those being demoed in North America? We can't be sure about that, but the pinch gave both my wife and another writer (whose website I won't name, but let me promise you, you've heard of it) headaches that lasted a couple of hours. She said:
The first, unexpected thing I noticed about the HMZ is that it’s heavy. If you don’t have the unit tightened properly on your head, it’s going to slip all the way down your face. Watching a booth attendant put the device on other people was like watching somebody suit up for a robot battle. It took a lot of fiddling and adjusting by another person to get the personal headset adjusted just right, which seems to defeat the purpose of a device you can only play alone.
You can read her whole writeup here.

Tags:   Sony


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