When the Playstation VR (PS VR) launched in 2016, consumer-level VR was still in its infancy. While the PS VR was fairly limited in scope when compared to the HTC Vive, particularly when freedom of movement was considered, Sony's backing turned the headset into a must-have for anyone wanting to experience the best of VR. With that said, rumors that have been swirling around this year about the next-generation VR headset from Sony certainly seem like more of a pipedream than a reality, all things considered.
Several obscure patent filings from Sony have been uncovered lately that hint at everything from a wireless headset with full movement tracking, to foveated rendering and even 5-hour battery life. But how much of this is realistic, and what can we actually expect from the Playstation 5-powered VR HMD? Quite a bit, as leaks point to, but not everything should be taken at face value.
Let's break down the rumor. First up, the $250 price-point for the headset that seems perfectly reasonable on the surface. PS4 players can go out and purchase a PS VR bundle pack for around that price, and that includes the Playstation VR headset, the Playstation Eye camera for head tracking, as well as two games that vary depending on the bundle. Given that the PS VR initially launched at $399 in 2016 and is now somewhere around half that price 3 years later, it seems a little far-fetched to think the next headset will be only $250.
The likelihood that the headset could retail for $250 at launch is further reduced by the leaked specs themselves. The 2560 x 1440 resolution display is an expected resolution upgrade and will make things sharper, while it keeps the 120Hz refresh rate of the current-generation PS VR HMD. It's also expected to offer eye-tracking support, which is another feature that should be expected by the time the Playstation 5 launches in well over a year.
Eye-tracking will provide significant ways to enhance the VR experience, possibly including better focusing for up-close objects, more natural depth perception, and even increased performance if Sony builds foveated rendering into the next Playstation's hardware.
The two tidbits that seem a bit far-fetched revolve around the ultra-wide angle of the lenses and the battery life cited. The spec leaks suggest that Sony's new headset will provide a 220-degree field of view, which is almost 100 degrees wider than the current breadwinner in VR, the Valve Index. The Index sits at around a 130-degree FoV per lens, and this is likely where the error in the leak revolves around.
Presumably, the 220-degree FoV cited is a combined number, as is the case with many VR headsets when looking at the resolution of the display panel. Breaking this down into two 110-degree FoV lenses certainly seems more palpable and would still be an upgrade from the existing PS VR, which is 100-degree FoV for each lens.
Lastly is the 5-hour battery life which, of course, suggests that the headset is fully wireless. When we reviewed the HTC Vive Wireless Adapter, we noted that it got between 2.5-4 hours of battery life. This is using a single 10,000mAh battery pack that clips onto a belt and is roughly 3x the size of the battery found in most modern smartphones. 5-hour battery life isn't outside of reach for Sony, especially if they're using newer components that would be somewhere around 4 years newer than what's found in the HTC Vive by the time the next-generation PS VR launches.
Still, without exact examples of how Sony is going to power the headset or where the battery is going to be located, it's difficult to say whether or not 5-hours is really a feasible runtime for a powerful headset that's also wireless. There will be plenty of additional details and leaks between now and the time the next-generation headset launches, which we expect to be sometime later next year.