Plans for Sony’s PlayStation 5 have not exactly been established as of yet, and there is even disagreement among the analyst community regarding when the console will ultimately be released. But it has been known for some time that virtual reality will be a very significant technology in the near future, and probably in the armory of the PlayStation 5. Indeed, both the PlayStation VR unit and Oculus Rift are expected before the end of the calendar year.
And Sony has recently filed a patent which will potentially have a significant influence over the direction of the video games industry, and of virtual reality itself.
ValueWalk's Raul Panganiban interviews Kirk Du Plessis, Founder and CEO of Option Alpha, and discuss Option Alpha and his general approach to investing. Q1 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more The following is a computer generated transcript and may contain some errors. Interview with Option Alpha's Kirk Du Plessis
Sony VR glove patent
The Japanese corporation has filed a patent for a VR Glove which have the ability to provide accurate hand tracking without the need for any physical controller. This will potentially up the VR ante if and when Sony can put it into practice.
Titled “Glove Interface Object,” the application has the ability to “identify a flex of at least one finger portion”. The technology apparently utilizes a range of contact centers that have the ability to recognize when a person’s thumb touches another finger. In addition, other control commands will be identified from the technology by the ability of the device to determine the “finger position pose” of an individual user. Based on this information, the new Sony technology can produce a rendering on the screen.
Interestingly, Sony has evidently been in possession of this technology for some time, as the company originally filed the patent on October 17, 2014. However, delays in the publishing of the submission have ensured that it only came to light recently, with the website of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office recently referring to it.
Aside from the virtual reality applications of this form of technology, there are also some interesting cloud-related rumors that have emerged. In particular, the documentation indicates that “the computer 106 functions as a thin client in communication over a network with a cloud gaming provider 112.” What this effectively means is that the cloud gaming provider will have the ability to initially handle all content, and will later transmit it to another device. Once this process has been completed, all of the elements will then be streamed to the virtual reality device in question.
This is intriguing enough in itself, but Sony also mentions a very important piece of news in the patent filing. It appears that the headset could eventually have the capability to connect directly with a router. This would mean that the necessity for a console or hardware to process graphics would be removed completely. This is hardly a new concept in the video games realm, as the eventual demise of the video games console has long since been predicted, even if it has yet to come to fruition. But this is the first indication that Sony could produce a major gaming device that is standalone from the central PlayStation units.
It is reasonable to say that the independent nature of the virtual reality headset will be a critical aspect of the future of the device. This would enable the headset to be completely separate from the technological straitjacket of even a next generation PlayStation 5.
What does appear to be the case is that Sony is intending to invest more money and energy in virtual reality concepts in the foreseeable future. Sony is set to unveil their PlayStation VR technology at an event on March 15, at which point the Japanese corporation will announce all of the details and pricing related to it.
Sony is not the only corporation that has produced a controller-free solution to virtual reality gaming. Leap Motion has its Orion technology, which it has claimed to have radically improved recently. It is also important to note that patents are not necessarily transformed into completed products. Apple is particularly notorious for filing dozens of patents that never see the light of day, but it certainly seems less likely that Sony would apply to have this technology copyrighted without the intention of utilizing in mainstream devices.
And it also seems that this new VR Glove units could have a major influence over the PlayStation 5. Sony already utilizes its subscription service PlayStation Now in order to stream games on demand, with consumers requiring to neither own the physical disc nor download a copy of an individual title. It is already believed by analysts that Sony’s patent could enable virtual reality headsets and gloves to use PlayStation Now as the cloud platform for users to access VR games, excluding the PlayStation 5 console from the loop.
Sony strategy key – The future of the PlayStation 5
This really begs the question of what the future of the PlayStation 5 will be. Will this virtual reality direction have a significantly negative impact over PlayStation 5 sales? Certainly this is something that Sony will want to consider carefully. The PlayStation 4 has dominated the Xbox One in the current console generation, and one of the most viable mantras in business is ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’!
But this doesn’t entirely apply to the situation with the PlayStation 5, as Sony needs to ensure that its future technology thrives in an ever more complex and diverse gaming marketplace. The PlayStation 5 will be forced to compete against mobile phones, PCs, other virtual reality units, even Apple TV, as many different devices attempt to attract casual gamers and tap into the vast video games marketplace. And Microsoft will be attempting to close the gap between the major console manufacturers with the Xbox Two as well.
The other issue for Sony is that the company faces technological challenges. PlayStation Now would seem to be a long way away from running PlayStation 5 titles, with most featured games being from the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 2 generations. And, of course, the PlayStation Now service has yet to demonstrate that it is compatible with virtual reality.
But it is clear that Sony sees virtual reality as a massive part of its future, and it will now be doubly interesting to see what the corporation has to say on March 15.