As Sony moves forward into the next generation with the PlayStation 5 coming out this holiday season (assuming there isn’t some significant, coronavirus-related delay between now and November), the company is also looking into new ways to improve its PlayStation VR experience. From the looks of it, that might be coming in the form of a new finger-tracking controller similar to the Valve Index, which was heavily utilized in Half-Life: Alyx.
The prototype was revealed alongside a research paper titled “Evaluation of Machine Learning Techniques for Hand Pose Estimation on Handheld Device with Proximity Sensor,” written by Sony’s Kazuyuki Arimatsu and Hideki Mori. While the paper itself is lengthy and gets into the nuts and bolts of how Sony got the tech working, it’s probably easier to just show it in action with this demonstration video here:
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While a lot of it looks like cut content from a Master Hand segment from the Super Smash Bros. series, the video does a pretty good job of demonstrating how the tech could give players significantly more control and input than they currently have using PlayStation VR. Right now, the only means of motion control PSVR has is the PlayStation Move controllers, which you can waggle all you like, but they’re not going to give you that same fine-tuned input of something like this.
Despite the jump forward this could be for PlayStation VR, the peripheral still doesn’t have that significant of an attach rate to the PlayStation 4 at this point, but Sony still seems steadfast in supporting the device. As of January, the PlayStation VR has sold about 5 million units in the past four years, which is under 5% of the PlayStation 4’s 106 million units sold since it launched in 2013. Even Valve is struggling on the attach rate side, as even a VR-exclusive game of one of its biggest franchises could barely move the needle, with only 2% of Steam users owning a headset to play Half-Life: Alyx.
Whatever Sony’s plans are for PlayStation VR, the company at large is likely more focused on the PlayStation 5’s launch coming up in the next six months or so. The system is reportedly going to have a smaller supply right out of the gate, but Sony swears up and down the coronavirus pandemic isn’t going to have an effect on the system’s release window. The company has yet to actually show what the box looks like, but it has revealed the PlayStation 5’s new controller called the “DualSense” and had a nice chat with developers about the system’s innards that went over the heads of most of us, but I’m sure was valuable information to some folks out there.
Will VR be a major pillar for the PlayStation 5? Probably not at launch, but we won’t know for sure until Sony finally has its big reveal event, which, honestly we could hear news on any day now, because the thing is launching in like six months.