Sony Conducting Research on New Valve-Index-Inspired VR Controller
As the years go by, VR technology has been improving by leaps and bounds. What once was a decision between three different headsets has now ballooned into a decision between a dozen. When it comes to VR, there's a Big Three that has been focusing heavily on it, similar to the landscape for consoles: Valve, Occulus, and Sony. In the case of the latter, it seems new progress is being made with a prototype controller that looks very similar in function to a Valve Index setup. The news comes from a new research paper written up by two R&D engineers from Sony Interactive Entertainment: Kazuyuki Arimatsu and Hideki Mori. The paper, which also comes with a display video, details a new controller that detects a player's individual finger movements for more advanced and realistic gameplay simulations.
All of it stems from machine learning, which works in conjunction with a controller that contains a proximity sensor. Using these two factors, the headset is able to get information on what the player's fingers are doing, without the need for external camera setups, similar to what Occulus put together for the Occulus Quest. The technology can allow for advanced movements, such as thumb rotation, all while figuring out what the player is trying to convey in realtime. All of this bodes excitingly well for Sony's future when it comes to VR, and especially towards making VR a more user-friendly, universal experience. As it stands right now, VR is still a very expensive, very new technology. The pricepoint alone can scare a lot of consumers away, not to mention the bulky setup and effort required for some. In recent years, this has started to alleviate somewhat with more hassle-free options from both Valve and Occulus, with the former focusing on beefier hardware.
The research does have to make one wonder, however: Could this technology be used towards a PlayStation VR 2? With the PlayStation 5 set to release this holiday season, it wouldn't be out of the question for Sony to consider creating a newer version of their PS4's PlayStation VR. After all, Valve and Occulus have gone on to make several new variants of their original VR headsets. Granted, this is all just speculation at this point. But with research being done into these high-tech new controllers, it's likely a new headset entirely would be needed to run them properly, as well as the more high-tech hardware of the PS5 over the PS4. Sadly, neither the new console nor a new VR headset was mentioned in the research paper. Still, it's fun to dream! For now, the best thing to do is sit back, relax, and watch VR take its course. It's still going to take time, but it's coming along.
VR has gotten some criticism in the past for only focusing on cheaper, simpler experiences that take advantage of the sole fact that one is playing in VR. Where are the AAA games, people might ask? Thankfully, that too has seen a change in recent years. Looking as far back as 2017, Capcom's Resident Evil VII was entirely playable in VR, providing a lengthy, AAA-quality survival horror right up in your face. More recently, Valve finally put out the next official installment of the Half-Life series with the prequel 'Half-Life: Alyx'. The game is anywhere between 10-20 hours long, and provides one of the most stunning, impressive VR experiences in gaming to-date. Indeed, the game is only playable in VR, a decision that has seen some flack on Valve's end. As they've explained in various talks, however, they realized HL: Alyx NEEDED to be playable in VR only. This has to do largely with the way mechanics work in the game, and the way they form together to make the experience more immersive. It seems likely that Half-Life's future is now set entirely with VR, and who knows, other series and companies may start going that way too.