Project Morpheus and Oculus Rift: Virtual reality headsets are coming soon

"The real challenge is how to sell 200 million units"

By Sarah Gray
March 19, 2014 8:15PM (UTC)
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Virtual reality -- and the headsets that would transport wearers there -- are not a new concept. In the 1980s, according to MIT Technology Review, people could strap on a $100,000 headset (along with other electronic gear) and their brains would be fooled into thinking they were in a new world.

Computer scientist Jaron Lanier formed VPL Research over 30 years ago. The company was the first to sell goggles and gloves that were a portal out of this world, and into a virtual one. He may have been well before his time, as the enthusiasm for VR faded. MIT Technology Review reports that the technology was abandoned for commercial use "due to the exorbitant costs involved or the motion sickness that many users complained of when playing early consumer examples of the technology."

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The concept is back in the commercial realm thanks to the 21-year-old Oculus Rift developer Palmer Luckey. His Kickstarter raised $2.5 million from over 9,000 people. The start-up Oculus VR is supposed to release Oculus Rift later this year.

Now others like Sony are jumping in. Sony debuted its Project Morpheus last night at Game Developer's Conference: Sony Worldwide Studio's president Shuhei Yoshida presented the device. VR looks poised to change gaming, as it is not just an added controller to a system, like Wii or Kinect, but rather a stand-alone device. According to Forbes, "The Morpheus is currently designed to run on PS4, but Sony shares the same philosophy as Oculus." That philosophy is that a VR headset is its own medium. Microsoft too has been rumored to be developing a headset of its own. Patents have been filed and the term "Kinect glasses" has been tossed around by the rumor mill.

Lainer told MIT Technology Review that he wasn't sure there was a large enough market for VR headsets. Maybe those who are clamoring for VR are living in their own reality:

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“But it can create an illusion that interest is perhaps larger than it really is. I believe Oculus Rift could launch tomorrow and comfortably sell a few hundred thousand units. But the real challenge is how to sell 200 million units. The enthusiast community is loud and adorable, but no matter how much you please them, you won’t necessarily reach beyond them.”

It is too soon to tell, as neither Oculus Rift nor Project Morpheus is out yet. Though, with more companies in the VR consul developing race one would speculate that there has to be some demand.

In terms of which one would be a better buy, it is all up to speculation. Forbes says that Project Morpheus "might even do a few things better than the Rift, and has additional input factors like the PS camera, the Move and, of course, the Dualshock itself." Thus far this technology is being geared toward gamers who have hungered for the technology represented in movies. Oculus Rift has also been used to simulate car crashes and test car safety in Australia. Who knows what else virtual reality will do?

h/t MIT Technology Review, Forbes


Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Innovation Oculus Rift Project Morpheus Technology Virtual Reality