Ah, the “metaverse”. Will the fantasy that our office meetings and social gatherings take place primarily in virtual reality become a reality?
As a tech reviewer who has worn nearly every pair of VR goggles released in the past seven years, I held my breath for a long time. Based on my testing of the year’s first big hardware launch in the Metaverse category — Sony’s PlayStation VR2, which arrives on Wednesday — I’ve concluded that VR still has some way to go before it becomes a mainstream staple for work and play .
To be clear, the $550 PlayStation VR2 is one of the best pieces of VR hardware you can buy. The curved white headset plugs into a PlayStation 5 console with a powerful computer that runs high-resolution games more smoothly; by comparison, Meta’s VR devices, including the $400 Oculus Quest 2 and $1,500 Quest Pro, are Works wirelessly, and relies on a slower computing chip built into the headset.
Unlike the Meta, Sony tends to only use the VR glasses when playing games — a smart choice, since gaming is by far the most popular VR app, while video calling via headsets is a productivity app. The program has not gained attention.
Still, none of this is enough to make VR a niche market, even as more brands, including Apple, prepare to enter the industry. That’s because many of the problems people have had with VR headsets to begin with — including the off-putting aesthetics and high price — still exist with the PlayStation VR2 goggles. That being the case, I can recommend them to enthusiasts, but not to the occasional video game player.
After a week of testing the PlayStation VR2, here’s how I feel about VR and the Metaverse.
What is the Metaverse and why is it important?
VR has yet to find a true killer app.
Why use VR to make video calls, stream movies or play games when existing methods already work? This is a longstanding question surrounding the metaverse. Despite advances in technology, the new PlayStation goggles don’t provide a definitive answer.
The most compelling new game I’ve tried is Call of the Horizon Hills, a VR spinoff of the best-selling game PlayStation 4 title Horizon Zero Dawn, a post-apocalyptic RPG. In the VR game, you control the character from the first-person perspective, swinging your arms to run and climb mountains; you can also move your hand to grab an arrow from the quiver and shoot it with a bow.
It’s a fun game with impressive graphics that showcases the power of the hardware, but ultimately, I still prefer the gameplay and deeper story of the original Horizon Zero Dawn, which I played on the PlayStation years ago. 4 completed the game.
Otherwise, most of the VR games I’ve tested that ship with the device are relatively old and uninteresting. These include Star Wars: Tales from Galaxy’s Edge; Tetris Effect: Connect; and Moss, previously released for the older Quest 2 and first-gen PlayStation VR.
Overall, the graphics and motion in the new PlayStation goggles look sharper and smoother than Meta’s VR offering. Still, I often find myself wondering why games should be played in VR rather than on a TV screen.
inside star wars game, you take on the role of a robot mechanic who uses a game controller to fire shockwaves at enemies as simple as that.the same can be said mossyou control a white mouse in a 3-D environment. Tetris Effect: Connect Rotating pieces called tetrominoes are involved, just like any traditional Tetris game made in the past few decades; there’s no apparent benefit to playing this in an immersive environment.
Other upcoming games on PlayStation VR2 that I wasn’t able to test included big titles like Gran Turismo 7 and Resident Evil Village. These are all popular franchises, but all released for traditional consoles in the past two years.
Gaming may be VR’s killer app right now, but if you want something new and exciting, the console and TV combo is still king.
The headset still looks and feels weird to wear.
Headsets have lost weight since VR hardware first hit the market about seven years ago. At 20 ounces, the PlayStation VR2 is 1 ounce lighter than its predecessor and 5 ounces lighter than the Meta Quest Pro. But all the goggles still feel too heavy. In my experience, I can wear them for no more than 30 minutes before I start to feel neck strain.
Case in point: I dropped the PlayStation VR2 off my face while I was playing a Star Wars game, then bent down to pick up a tool from the floor of the virtual space station. The wires that plug into the console also make the device feel bulkier than wireless headsets and pose a trip hazard in a living room.
Like all the goggles that have come before, the PlayStation VR2 looks downright ridiculous. My wife couldn’t help but shoot video to laugh at me when I wore headphones that made me look like a character from the movie “Tron.”
For storage, Sony includes a charging station to house the motion controllers, which is handy. But together with the headset, the product takes up valuable living room space — and unlike a laptop or smartphone, VR goggles will instantly make a tidy room look cluttered. For single people, I worry that seeing goggles will kill your chances for a second date.
The metaverse is alone.
For the concept of the metaverse to succeed, we need to be able to connect with our loved ones in that space. In its current state, VR remains largely a solitary experience. When you wear PlayStation goggles, you block your view of the real world. What you do in the game will be shown on the TV screen that the PlayStation is plugged into. This makes everyone else in the room follow suit, but it’s not very social.
And that brings up another problem: To have friends play together in the Metaverse, they have to buy the same headset — and the technology is still expensive.
When consumer technology becomes mainstream, it usually becomes cheaper and more accessible. Despite being on the market for the better part of a decade, virtual reality is heading in the opposite direction. At $550, the PlayStation VR2 is $150 more than its predecessor — and that’s not including the $500 you’ll have to pay for the PlayStation 5.
Sony isn’t alone in raising prices. Last year, Meta raised the price of its best-selling headset, the Quest 2, from $300 to $400. Apple’s headphones, which are said to be released this year, are expected to be a high-end device that could cost thousands of dollars. Report.
So maybe one day — when the technology is cheaper, has real killer apps, and doesn’t make people look like weirdos — we’ll all be hanging out in the metaverse. For now, I will continue to meet people in person and online the old-school way.