Project Morpheus: Eyes-on PS4’s New VR Prototype

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Project Morpheus: Eyes-on PS4’s New VR Prototype

Project MorpheusProject Morpheus

Sid Shuman

I’ve decided that describing virtual reality to someone who’s never tried it is basically impossible. Like tasting or smelling or seeing, VR is a sensory experience that you have to try for yourself to truly understand. Words can’t do it justice.

Nonetheless, Justin and I will do our best. Fresh off our positive test drive of last year’s original prototype, we were curious how much Project Morpheus’s upgraded specs have enhanced the overall VR experience, most notably that illusion of “presence” — the fragile feeling that you’re actually inhabiting the game’s world.

Read on for Justin’s thoughts. But based on what I experienced, Project Morpheus has indeed come a long, long way since last March. For starters, the headset feels far lighter and much more comfortable. The screen can slide forward a few inches, which makes makes taking it on and off a much simpler affair.

“The new display makes a world of difference.”

Then there’s the display, which has seen a hefty upgrade from last year’s LCD to an OLED 1920 X RGB X 1080 specification that boasts richer colors and silky smoothness thanks to the new 120hz refresh rate. There’s no doubt about it: The new display makes a world of difference.

There are myriad other enhancements. Nine LEDs now adorn the front and sides of Project Morpheus, which will allow PS Camera to track in 360 degrees. And latency, that eternal enemy of VR engineers, has been reduced to less than 18 milliseconds — a key technical achievement that promises to make the player’s movements more responsive and the experience more immersive.

What none of these technical specs explain is how immersive Project Morpheus really is. It’s groundbreaking. I tried out two demos, “Magic Controller” and “Bedroom Robots,” both of which starred the cute little Asobi robots from PS4’s Playroom app.

“Magic Controller” was a great introduction to the basics of VR. As I peered down at my DualShock 4, I saw a 3D cartoon simulacrum accurately overlaid over the form of my actual DualShock 4, keeping up a perfect illusion as I rotated the controller in my (real) hands. This was fascinating enough, but then the “magic” DualShock 4 transformed into a music player, and then a working flashlight, before my eyes.

“It’s impossible to explain.”

This demo might sound like kid’s stuff, but I was totally engrossed. I clicked the touchpad to deploy a small army of Asobi robots, who began dancing frantically while I waved my DualShock 4 flashlight’s beam over them. Thanks to the headset’s realistic depth perception, I felt like I was there, inhabiting that smoky dance floor with them. It was an impressive start.

The second demo, “Bedroom Robots,” took a different approach. In this voyeuristic VR demo, I peered into a dollhouse populated with tiny robots. Leaning in closer to get a better look, I watched them ride exercise bikes, throw frisbees, and play ping-pong. Project Morpheus kept up perfectly with all of my real-life moments, letting me change my viewing angle as naturally as in real life.

As I studied the tiny figures, a shiver traveled up my spine. The animations were charming enough, but if I had viewed this scene on a TV screen I wouldn’t have given it a second glance. Seen through Project Morpheus, the scene took on a weight and a gravity I haven’t experienced outside of, well, real life. Again, it’s impossible to explain. You really do have to try it.

The technical stuff is way beyond me. But I’m hugely hopeful that Project Morpheus will empower completely new approaches to “game” design. Imagine a VR murder mystery that puts you at the center of a dinner party, or a stroll through an alien garden where you can stop to smell the (flesh-eating) roses. Played on a 2D TV screen, these experiences might look neat, but you’d be done in minutes. Experienced through Project Morpheus, they have the potential to be truly memorable and powerful.

My body is ready.

Project MorpheusProject Morpheus

Justin Massongill

My Project Morpheus experience involved a cage, some jellyfish, an agitated shark, an increased heart rate and a genuine sense of terror.

First things first: strapping the newest prototype onto my noggin was a trivial affair, requiring minimal adjustments to find a comfortable fit (which left space for my glasses without sacrificing precious immersion).

“It left space for my glasses without sacrificing immersion.”

A refresh of last year’s demo, “The Deep” showcases just how convincingly PS4’s prototype VR headset can persuade the human brain that you’re somewhere you’re not. Project Morpheus’ new enhancements coalesce to drastically elevate the demo’s immersiveness.

As the demo began, I found myself standing in a cage maybe 20 feet under water. When I looked straight up I could see the cable suspending me, leading back up to a small boat on the surface. Schools of fish swam by, and bubbles floated through the water, sometimes just in front of my face — an unexpected “wow” moment each time it happened.

I descended further down through different scenes, including a particularly gorgeous area lit only by passing jellyfish, leading to the meat of the demo: a tense standoff with a shark who had a hankerin’ for some tasty human flesh.

After circling my cage a few times, the creature lunged at me. Thankfully my steadfast vessel fended off my would-be killer. The shark latched on to one of the cage’s light fixtures, jerking and thrashing it loose and tossing it to the ocean floor. The cage shook with each pull, which — get this — my brain interpreted as actual movement. Embarrassingly, I involuntarily tried to compensate for this by moving my real-life legs. I had to make a concerted effort to remind myself that I wasn’t actually hundreds of feet underwater, being attacked by a highly evolved aquatic predator.

“One time, I caught myself actually taking a step back.”

After a couple more circles around my beaten and battered cage, the shark came at me again. Then again. Each time, he would barely miss and nudge the cage to the side, or he would tear into another part of the cage and rip it off. Eventually, the entire front panel of the cage was gone, leaving nothing but fear between me and my impending end. I stood, alone and vulnerable, inside three fourths of a cage, watching as the animal circled, eyeing me — toying with me. He made a run for me a couple more times, and one time I caught myself actually taking a step back. Again, involuntary.

At this point, my palms were sweaty. My heart was beating just a bit faster than normal. I felt genuinely uncomfortable even though I knew none of this was real. As far as my brain was concerned, it was real. I was there. I was, in some small part of my mind, mildly scared for my life.

This is the most exciting proposition of Project Morpheus, and of virtual reality as a concept. If someone who’s closely followed and scrutinized this new technology can still be awed by it, imagine how inspiring and transformative it could be for others! One of our most impossible science fiction fantasies is here, it’s real, and it’s exactly as unbelievable as we had hoped it would be.

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13 Author Replies

  • This will see a few games released then be forgotten about like so many other things Sony hypes us up about and then pretends like it doesn’t exist…!

  • I will only consider it if the price is $300 or less.

  • I really cant wait. Price is a concern but Shu said they will make it as cheep as they possibly can.

  • With VR being tackled on so many fronts(Sony,Oculus/facebook,Valve/HTC) I am very hopeful for the future of the medium.

    • Justin Massongill

      Yeah, me too! And like Sid mentioned in his write up, it’s something you need to try before you can really “get it.” It’s one thing to see all the specs and be told that it’s immersive, it’s another thing entirely to actually put it on and have full control over what’s happening.

  • I am so glad that this tech has finally arrived and that soon we will all have the chance to experience Morpheus on the PS4. I hope Sony will include the AR robots, magic controller and The Deep with the Morpheus. I know that they are tech demo’s but it sounds like they would be a great way to introduce Morpheus and show off what’s possible. I’m also hoping that sports games like MLB The Show will find a way to implement Morpheus. Imagine a VR version of Live From Playstation where you can spectate from any seat in an MLB The Show baseball stadium that your friends are playing, or actually standing at the plate, waiting to bat against your your favorite pitcher. Thank you guys for sharing your experiences with Morpheus and giving us a preview of what’s in store. My body is also ready!

  • This is a day one purchase for me. I know that the Witness (which I’m eagerly awaiting) will support VR, and I’m hoping that more AAA games do as well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see No Man’s Sky have a VR DLC (or something) and I would gladly pay a bit extra to enjoy many of these creative worlds from directly within them.

    This is truly next gen. I simply cannot wait.

  • What would be really cool is if they could implement Project Morpheus with a game like let’s say Silent Hill:)

    Now that would be freaking awesome being able to move around the environment and feel like you are in Silent Hill!

    Make it Happen!

  • For me, this is an absolute day 1 buy. Do you have a price point for the item at this time, or is that still being decided?

    • Justin Massongill

      No price details yet, but stay tuned. Whenever there are new developments, we’ll have ’em here on the Blog.

  • @Leon62290

    I see at least a 400 dollar to 500 dollar price tag


  • Thanks, Sid and Justin, for attempting to convey the experience to the rest of us. I’m certainly excited to try it for myself in 2016.

    Up to now, it sounds like most of the demos are stationary. I look forward to hearing how Morpheus fares, when you’re allowed to move around an environment. Indeed, most games demand it. You don’t really need much for the experience to be worthwhile. I think we can all compartmentalize the movement of our real limbs and relegate the movement in-game to the push of a button or stick. Simply feeling that you’re in the game world, as it stretches around you in all directions, and the ability to walk forward, but look left and right, up and down — that’s a huge augmentation to games as we know them. It will make games feel much more natural. I imagine Resistance or some other classic Sony first-person title, in VR. It would be incredible.

    First we need locomotion in these demos, so I hope that Sony is working on it, and that you get to try it first and share with us your experiences.

    • It’s a bit of a split. My demo emphasized leaning into, so it wasn’t about sitting stock still. But straight up walking around could be tricky – will be interesting to see what devs come up with. Treadmills? ;)

  • How this ground breaking? Reduced to less than 18 milliseconds for latency(Aim for zero Latency next time), 1920 x 1080 RGB OLED Screen has fastest refresh rate but limit to 120hz thats not hefty upgrade at all, Project Morpheus really is waste of time and money like i have been saying for while. There’s no doubt about it being wasting of time for display that won’t makes a world of difference at all.

    You want true groundbreaking? Project Morpheus design can be alot more better so the final product would look cool and run perfectly without any problems. It looks silly to wear it at all, how about changing the design to be 100% around like normal Helmet or something from the anime SAO. I know of one design that would 100% work for it.

    • Justin Massongill

      The less than 18ms on this prototype certainly *feels* like zero latency. I whipped my head around trying specifically to test this, but I wasn’t able to perceive any sort of lag. I’m an old rhythm game veteran too, so I’m pretty sensitive to latency in games.

  • Price:

    $149.99 for headset only

    $249.99 for headset plus camera plus 1 move controller plus 1 full game

    $579.99 for all the above plus a PS4

    Lots of free demos on the store

    This is the winning price point. If you could get those first two to $99 and $149 you would make a mint. Most will buy that second Move controller too. Also, make sure you keep supporting original Move controller. We saw your patent for a Move controller with a touch pad. That’s fine, but keep supporting the original Move. The investment price is steep enough as is.

  • @Sid do you think we’ll get free short experiences like roller coasters,museums and short 5-10 minutes movies at project Morpheus launch?

    • Don’t know any specific plans, but I’d certainly think this approach makes sense – sort of like the old PS1/PS2 tech demos of yore. I miss those :)

  • I have a huge head; I swear, I should have satellites orbiting my melon. I hope this thing will fit me because I plan to pick one up.

    • It’s easily adjustable – I think you’ll be ok. I have a pretty big head too, and there was adjustable room to spare.

  • VERY AWESOME! Is there ANY CHANCE I could please be sent one too TEST out via BETA Testing? I’ve been in over 45 Private, Closed, ALPHA, and Public Beta’s going back too the PS2. Most recent was EVOLVE, and also been in the PS Rewards Privtae and Closed Beta, as well as PS Now Closed Beta..

    would be truly honored too be a part of it, and since Im home 24/7 and cant work because of getting hurt, I got all the time you need! lol

  • Let me know when it works with Destiny.

  • see profile for detailed BETA List…..hence why my other nickname besides Haskell420, is the “MASTER BETA’R! Haha

  • WOW! this was amazing at PSX Please oh Please have it at this years PSX so I can try the new one! I would be VERY VERY pleased. There are so many posibilities with this headset not just in games. Imagine tours of places around the world, tech demo that can be used just to amaze us. a short film made for VR. Or a short clip of POWERS in VR! Keep up the good work.

  • Morpheus? Meet Vita. Vita? Morpheus. You two are likely going to be spending a lot of time together, while PS4 and I hang out.

  • And i should buy this because?????? i bought your vita you hyped so much about and did NOTHING with it. collection of firmware updates on a paper-weight

  • I’m excited about Orpheus. I hope Sony creates a new move controller with an analog stick on both controllers and with as many buttons as possible.

  • @23 I meant morpheus.

  • Awesome, cannot wait to try this myself!

  • Wasn’t PM supposed to have some sort of headphones attached to it for surround or 3D sound? In the pictures it looks like it doesn’t.

  • I know this is cool and all but please Sony invest in your exclusives for ps4 and stop spending all of the ps4 owners and money on VR. I’m sure it’s pretty awesome we paid for the PlayStation 4 and we want exclusives and good exclusive and a lot of exclusives… if you didn’t know your EXCLUSIVES are the reason people play and/or switched

  • I have one request for this whole setup. Next Generation Move Controllers. Lack of analog sticks sucks on the Move and it got in the way of so many games on PS3. If Morpheus hopes to over come this problem the Move needs to evolve. The Sharp Shooter Generation 2 needs to find its hope in this as well. You want to convince me this is the future, show me the inputs and experience of First Person Shooters can evolve so that if I turn physically 360 degrees I can shoot like in the real world, strafe and move like in a normal FPS.

  • I’m very interested in what kinds of global illumination can be done within the 60fps (~16ms) limit. More than increased resolution or 60fps, it’s really multi-bounce lighting and sound simulation that feels “next-gen” to me. If I raise my hand or move in “front” of a light source in the environment, will it cast a shadow and/or have an effect on the rays being cast?

    It is these things that I am most looking forward to in order to really have a sense of ‘presence’. VR versions of Afrika, Walking with Dinosaurs, Puppeteer, Myst, Datura, and EyePet that acknowledge/break the ‘fourth’ wall really demand that level of light/sound simulation, IMO. I’m greatly looking forward to all those experiences.

    I’m also looking forward to very ‘abstract’ visuals to fit within the constraints of the resolution and framerate, like in PixelJunk Eden/4am, Dyad, Hohokum, Everyday Shooter, TxK, echochrome ii, Geon, Cubixx, Noby Noby Boy, Child of Eden, Entwined, Auditorium, From Dust, etc.

  • Sword Art Online ought to be a launch title with this. If there is a lack of content then hopefully it can work with movies and regular games too. (And 3D VR movies too?)

  • With the Morpheus, Move, Wonderbook and stereo PS4 camera as ready-to-go peripherals for continuous calibration of the movement/placement of the player (Move/DS4) and the space they are in (Wonderbook), the only question is content. There’s enough VR-ready games from last-gen to go a long ways (see my previous post), nevermind the new experiences we’re being teased with.

    I just hope that Sony is smart enough to use all of their existing peripherals, both for technical reasons, as well as the obvious upsell opportunity.

  • Absolutely hyped to test it. But will hold on the actual purchase until I’m certain it will not share the same fate as the ps move.

  • Is it comfortable to wear with glasses on? That is my main worry with VR headsets. Also keep the name! PS Morpheus is a fantastic name, and now that PS Mobile is being discontinued calling it PSM for short won’t be a problem :)

    • Justin Massongill

      It is! I chose specifically to wear my glasses that day so I could test Morpheus with ’em, and it worked like a charm. The front piece of the unit slides on a track, so you can put it on then slide the whole thing closer to your face. I got it close enough that I felt fully immersed, but my glasses weren’t like, pressed up against the screen or anything.

  • I feel like I’m still waiting for the next generation of gaming to arrive. Even though we’re midway, well almost midway through March 2015. With Project Morphious, I feel like it could possibly deliver that next GEN experience that I was so eagerly anticipating.

  • When you said “Bedroom Robots” was a voyeuristic demo, I was thinking of something… else.

    • Yeah, I got some comments internally about that :) But… it captures the vibe of the demo, like you’re benevolent god peering in at your tiny robot creations.

  • I like the concept of VR , but practical application is what I wanna know about. Watching Netfix and so on, and the part that bothers me his having some sort of VR controller.
    So in the words of the Sharks: I’m Out.

  • Hope I can try this at E3 in June. Last year Morpheus was ‘press only’, but I hope Sony opens that up this year to all attendees.

  • I am so hoping for a reboot or new .//hack game with Morpheus… the one thing I wished for since hearing about Project Morpheus!

  • VR… they tried to bring this tech many times into the market but never hooked. It could be now the world is ready… or never. I remember trying a demo at a carnival way back when and it was intense really. But it felt just like that – a carnival ride.

    Anyway seems interesting though. Will this be included in the new ps4 4k when it comes out in the Fall?

  • Considering I can stand infront of a 1080p OLED tv and it looks like 3D because it’s so darn real the move to OLED panels for that should make all the difference!

  • QUESTION: what about sound speakers in Morpheus? i heard that there will be 7.1 sound speakers in Morpheus but dont see them…

  • No one care.

  • Yes, please keep the name, simply Morpheus. You can explain all you want what its like, but I for one can only imagine the possibilities. Ultimately, if you enjoy or appreciate the art of video games then this won’t be too much of a hard sell. For those who rather appreciate the art of film, might be more hard pressed. Think 3-D which I’m still a firm believer in, this will a the very least be a nice complementary experience and I’m ready to be JACKED IN!

  • with support for glasses, does wearing the device without glasses maintain a seal on your face to keep outside light from leaking in through the sides?

  • @finaler

    All you need is a Surround Sound headset like the PlayStation Gold Wireless Headset to get that 3D audio.

    3D Audio is = Surround Sound Audio but with presence of sound moving around you. Like if you get closer to the sound it gets louder or far away and its softer,

    Or like a race car going around a track when your siting still and the sound move past you.

    Think of it like moving sound. It moves when you move.

  • This has another yr or more til release right? I’d like to beta if possible, havent been in a closed one. My concerns are bugs & price. Its a very nice accessory but i dont want to put a ton of money on an accessory to turn around and pay more for games for it. Brings an interesting view on virtual worlds, like PS home devs new project working with it. Now that’d be awesome. But what about vue update? Its set to come out soon and no info since the press conference. Or even when new PS4 update is suppose to drop. C’mon I’d like to learn about whats coming soon rather than next yr or even longer

  • Justin, I’m sure you can’t say anything about PC support right now, but I hope you read this and pass it up the chain of command. I’m not interested in the Rift now that Facebook has acquired Oculus, and that leaves Sony poised to pick up everyone else who shares my feelings. Besides, being able to use one device between my PS4 and my PC would make buying Project Morpheus a no-brainer, and purchasing a PC version of the Playstation Camera would hardly break the bank.

  • Thanks sharing Morpheus details with us guys! I’m curious about the audio side of things. Will audio track movement as well? Will you be able to just jack into your cotroller and have audio track your head movement? How about surround output via HDMI / Optical? Will those outputs track movement as well? Thanks in advance and keep up the good work!

    • You’re welcome! Project Morpheus will support binaural audio, which is awesome for spatial effects. But no audio/movement tracking AFAIK.

  • You need these things in every gamestop, target, and best buy for people to try.

  • Sensitive to latency in games, i know it too well. After spending so many years gaming sense i was kid to now, latency is the thing that bothers me the most about Project Morpheus and its design style. Hardware and software 2rd most thing that bothers me as well, unless i tested them out myself with games made for them i can’t agree with anyone buying this and getting their hopes shot down. Number one thing that bothers me to the core is the support for Project Morpheus will end super quickly or lack true support just like with PSP and PS Vita. No more 1st party Video Games on PS Vita is the main support i care about as gamer. System software updates isn’t true support unless 1st party games are still being made on it, which is true support for the handheld then.

    Project Morpheus is worth only $100 no more then that sense its not something worth buying unless your hardcore gamer who does it all or fanboy buys into and if 3rd party game company make use of it or are force to make games for it or must support it like remove play is requirement.

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