Sony virtual reality head gear set for 2016 release

San Francisco (AFP) - Sony was at a major game developers' gathering Wednesday showing off a prototype of "Morpheus" virtual reality head gear set for release next year.

The Japanese consumer electronics titan did not disclose how much it planned to charge for the virtual reality (VR) system synced to work with its popular PlayStation 4 video game consoles.

"With the technical specs achieved on the new prototype, we are one step closer to realizing our vision for making amazing VR experiences on PS4, and ultimately to deliver a real sense of presence to players," said Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida.

"We believe that the near-final technology of Morpheus, combined with the power of PS4, will provide a standard for game developers to target as they build on their creative ideas and turn them into VR games and experiences."

Sony is among several companies developing VR head gear and pitching their technology at a Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this week.

Facebook-owned Oculus VR and Sony were each headlining Wednesday sessions likely to be packed with game makers.

A crowd was also expected at a session Wednesday featuring the head of the Xbox team at Microsoft, who is likely to tout gaming potential of HoloLens augmented reality visors that the US technology titan is developing.

- Future of gaming -

Sony billed VR as the future of gaming while introducing the latest prototype from Project Morpheus, which was unveiled in March of last year.

Sony said that, since then, it has been listening to feedback and making enhancements "that will further the capability of Morpheus to deliver a sense of presence and push the boundaries of play."

Prototype improvements included a screen with a larger field of view to remove blur and flicker, along with faster frame rates for smoother visuals, according to Sony.

Sony said it has sold more than 20.2 million PS4 consoles since they hit the market in late 2013.

As GDC got under way this week, Valve and Taiwan-based smartphone maker HTC announced they are working together on Vive virtual reality head gear on track for release by the end of this year.

"Vive creates an exciting opportunity for all developers and content creators, to help us bring virtual reality into the mainstream with an end-to-end solution that completely redefines how we entertain ourselves, communicate with each other, learn and, eventually, how we become more productive," HTC chairwoman Cher Wang said in a release.

"HTC Vive is real, it's here and it'll be ready to go before the start of 2016."

- Targeting billions -

Oculus chief technology officer John Carmack told a packed room of developers at GDC that the company is working with South Korean consumer electronics colossus Samsung on a next-generation Gear VR device likely to be released late this year.

"We've got a plan now; we've got a date," Carmack said while encouraging game makers to hop of the virtual reality band wagon.

"Oculus is going forward as hard as we can, trying to sell as many units as we can with the next Gear VR."

Carmack said he is most excited about the future of virtual reality that lets users unplug from personal computers and go mobile. He envisioned the future of virtual reality as running on mobile technology, but said the "headset of our dreams" remained years away.

Being acquired by Facebook last year in a $2 billion deal is turning out to be a good thing for the Oculus platform, bringing with it talent, resources and expertise at building infrastructure capable of serving people around the world, according to Carmack.

"I want to see a billion people in virtual reality; Zuck wants to see a billion people in virtual reality," Carmack said, referring to Facebook chief and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

"There is not a step-by-step plan," he told the game makers. "But, we plan to sell enough units to make it worth your while."