Callum BoothManaging Editor
Callum is the Managing Editor of TNW. He covers the full spectrum of technology, looks after editorial newsletters, and makes the occasional Callum is the Managing Editor of TNW. He covers the full spectrum of technology, looks after editorial newsletters, and makes the occasional odd video.
It’s been five long years, but Sony has finally revealed the design of its second virtual reality headset.
Unsurprisingly named the VR2 (come on, what else did you expect from the company that brought you the PlayStation 5?), the hardware has been unveiled at an interesting time.
Not only is there a renewed interest in virtual reality tech (thanks, Meta), but it’s also arriving into a market that has significantly evolved in recent years. In fact, the VR2 serves as an interesting marker to show how the entire sector has changed.
One point to note before we begin: the current announcement only covers the design of Sony’s headset. While there was some technical information revealed (we’ve included that below), this is really Sony showing off how the headset looks. And that’s the base we’re building this article on.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s start looking at what’s new with the PS VR2.
PS VR2: the technical updates
Fundamentally, the VR2 is similar to its predecessor — but includes the sort of improvements you’d expect considering the original was launched way back in… 2016?
The VR2 is lighter and slimmer, has a lens adjustment dial (so you can get the display the perfect distance from your eyes), and a built-in motor for haptic feedback.
It connects to a PS5 console via USB-C (we don’t know if it works with the PS4 yet) and can display in 4K with either 90 or 120Hz frame rates.
Basically, the VR2 is faster, better, and lighter than its predecessor. Quelle surprise.
What about the design of the PS VR2?
This is where things get interesting.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. There’s a substantial difference between the design of the VR and VR2. It’d be utterly bizarre if there wasn’t.
As stated in the announcement — and something you can plainly see from the image above — the VR2 is heavily “inspired by the look of the PS5 family of products.” It’s not as though it would’ve been inspired by the Sega Genesis after all.
But there’s a more telling quote a few lines down. There, the company says it wants the headset to “become an attractive part of [its users’] living room decor.”
Of course Sony is gonna say this. What’s the alternative? Stating that it’s created something so ugly and garish that only the unhinged would want it near them? That’d be a baller move, for sure, but an unlikely one all the same.
Now we’ve got that clear, onto my thesis. This design change points to how the world of virtual reality has moved on since the launch of the original PS VR back in 2016.
From those goofy, colorful joysticks to the blue lights on the headset, the old device screams “gaming” as clearly as those sorta chairs. You know the ones I mean. Don’t pretend you don’t. You do.
Clearly, this isn’t the case with the aesthetics of the PS VR2. It is a far more serious-looking piece of kit.
Virtual reality’s sea change
To quote Biggie, in the time between the PS VR and VR2, “things done changed.”
Let’s take Oculus as an example. The Rift was launched the same year as the PlayStation headset, but since then Oculus has released the Rift S, Go, Quest, and Quest 2.
And it’s not just the hardware that shifted, its use cases have too.
The technology moved from gaming into something more transformative. To put it another way, tech giants are trying to take VR from a games platform into something more akin to a phone.
Much of this — but not all — has to do with Meta, and the company’s recent pivot to the, well, metaverse. It’s pumping billions into its attempt to move virtual reality from niche concern to mainstream player. Effectively, out of the basement, into the office.
And I can see this “growing up” mentality all over the design of the PS VR2. It’s sleek and modern, looking more like a futuristic piece of sci-fi hardware, as opposed than the RGB nightmare often associated with gaming.
Sony’s drawing a line in the sand
I’d like to make something clear though: I’m not suggesting Sony is giving up gaming — or even that the VR2 isn’t designed with that as its main purpose.
It’s vital for Sony’s future that the PS VR2 finds its place as the best headset for gaming. And that’s because of what its competitors have been up to.
Over the last five years we’ve seen a major divergence between console makers.
Nintendo has stepped out of the power war and, with the Switch, has focused more on casual gaming. Microsoft has gone on an acquisition binge and appears to be focusing on making its Game Pass service a must-have.
But Sony? It’s seemed out of step with these strategies so far. In fact, it’s been unclear what the company’s goal was with its console — but the PS VR2 changes that.
If the hardware is good — and there’s no reason to expect it won’t be — the company can carve out a niche as being the console for VR experiences.
The PS5 is much cheaper than a gaming PC capable of running virtual reality titles, and far easier to get acquainted with.
Then, consider the fact that consoles also commonly function as household media centers. With this, Sony has an opportunity to provide an entry-point for non-gamers into the world of virtual reality — something the VR2’s accessible design will help usher in.
Yes, we still need to find out important details about Sony’s headset, like the price and release date, but it’s already gearing up to be one the most significant VR products of 2022 and beyond.
One thing’s for certain though: virtual reality is growing up. And, with the PS VR2, Sony has the opportunity to be at the forefront of this change.
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