The PlayStation 5’s key improvements have already been confirmed by Sony in an interview that promised a graphical beast with the first, built-in, solid-state drive of any console. But while the gaming system is still roughly a year away, it’s already looking like the PS5’s rumored selling point will be the device’s companion virtual reality headset.
Previous patents that appear to be for Sony’s follow-up to the 2016 PSVR headset have indicated the device will be completely wireless and comfortably accommodate users who wear glasses. Most recently, a patent application published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on April 18 shed further light on Sony’s plans to finally cut the cord for VR enthusiasts.
While it hasn’t been confirmed by Sony, a monstrous batch of leaks allegedly posted by an anonymous game developer hinted that the PSVR 2 headset will be sold separately for $250, support 2,560 x 1,440 resolution, 120Hz, provide a 220-degree field of view, eye-tracking, five hours of battery life, and come with integrated headphones. These cutting-edge features will all be possible without being connected to your console, thanks to high-frequency radio waves.
The patent describes how the upcoming PlayStation console will encode VR video data into a 60 GHz frequency, which would then be beamed to the headset and decoded. It also explains how this technique could be used both for games and video streams, which would let users enjoy all kinds of immersive VR experiences without tripping over wires or yanking their console out of place.
Here’s an excerpt of the patent:
“A head-mounted display (HMD), comprising: a band for attachment to a head of a user; a wireless communication system including an antenna disposed on a top side of the band of the HMD, the antenna configured to receive an [radio frequency] signal from an [radio frequency] transmitter, the RF signal including video data that is encoded in a compressed format; wherein the wireless communication system includes a receiver configured to decode the [radio frequency] signal received through the antenna; a display configured to render the video data.”
This latest patent deals with a barrier, which is that for this encoding system to work optimally, users will need to stay in the console’s line-of-sight. Millimeter waves can wirelessly deliver massive amounts of data at breakneck speeds, but their biggest drawback is that they have trouble penetrating walls and getting around surfaces.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) tested this exact frequency before, and was able to transfer data at rates of 7 Gigabits per second within a ten meter radius. That also means Sony will need to make it clear that users need to stay near the console or risk frame drops.
Going wireless would be a particularly big deal. Sony’s PSVR hardware has caused users to feel nauseous in the past, and poor VR video rendering is a dizzying experience. The company will need to ensure its wireless transmission feature works flawlessly to avoid sickening users if it is indeed going to launch a wireless PSVR headset.
The patent addresses this potential issue by describing how the radio transmitter in the console would be “configured to adjust a beamforming direction of the radio frequency signal towards the antenna of the wireless communication system.” In other words, the console would track the headset and precisely transfer video data to avoid glitches when a player steps in front of an obstruction.
Companies usually file patents for far-off products they’re still conceptualizing. But a number of similar, VR-centric Sony patents and PS5 rumors suggest a launch could be on the horizon by some time next year. If the PSVR 2 hardware does drop it’ll be a trailblazing product for an industry-leading console.
No other console offers a wireless VR headset as an accessory. The Oculus Quest is the next best thing, but because it is a standalone headset it won’t have anywhere near the graphical capabilities you get by folding in the computing power of a companion console.
Sony has already announced plans to skip the June 11 E3 gaming industry trade show, where it traditionally teased hardware releases in the past. Seeing as Sony’s biggest competitors — Microsoft and Nintendo — will be in attendance, we should expect a standalone Sony event sometime in the summer. Given the steady drumbeat of patent news and feature confirmations about the PS5, it seems unthinkable the company’s VR plans will go unmentioned.