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When VR came to PlayStation the world got excited. Finally, there was a chance that the tech could leap into the mainstream. The PSVR headset fulfilled a lot of wishes but compared to some of the other gear PC users were using it just wasn’t as good. So are there any options for connecting higher-end VR headsets to the PS4?
PlayStation launched its first VR headset in October 2016. In the 5 years since the release of the PlayStation VR, there have been software updates and a few hardware changes, but no new iterations. The PlayStation VR is the only VR headset that can be used on the PlayStation 4. This is down to the physical design and configuration of the PSVR and a lack of software support. PSVR is a tethered headset, which means it connects physically with the PlayStation using cables. The headset itself plugs into a processor box, which then connects to the PS4.The processor box handles the visuals that are displayed on your TV and the 3D audio that is played through earphones in the headset.
Motion tracking is handled by the PlayStation Camera. This is a vital part of the setup. You cannot use PSVR without the PlayStation Camera. The camera tracks 9 positional LEDs on the front of the headset. It is able to work out your position and movements from the LEDs. The camera is also responsible for tracking PlayStation Move and PlayStation AIM controllers. When it comes to setting up the PSVR, there are quite a few cables that connect the VR to the PS4 and the TV. The set-up is a little bit ridiculous, requiring 2 HDMI cables as well as a USB cable and the VR headset cable.
The headset cable is fairly unique in that it has two different heads. This makes it difficult to replace and also prevents other VR headsets from working with the PS4. The major issue is that the PS4 does not support the software necessary to run other headsets.
The majority of other VR headsets are designed to be used with PCs, which means their software is not supported on consoles. PlayStation uses the Orbis operating system, which is pretty niche and not compatible with other VR headsets.
The Oculus Rift was the original VR headset from Oculus. It was launched in March 2016, beating the PlayStation VR by a few months. Designed to work with PCs, the Oculus Rift is a tethered VR headset. It is now discontinued, but you do find secondhand Rifts for sale. The Oculus Rift relied on external sensors to track the movement of the headset. Like the PS4, this tracking system used LED positioning lights to keep track of where the headset was positioned. The Rift works with one sensor positioned in front of the user, however, for full 360 freedom of movement, three sensors are recommended. These sensors are similar to the PlayStation camera, but they are not interchangeable or compatible. This is one of the many reasons why you cannot use an Oculus Rift headset on a PS4.
The Rift was discontinued in 2019 to make way for the Oculus Quest and eventually the Oculus Quest 2. Both of these headsets are untethered, meaning that they don’t use cables to connect to the system These headsets are completely self-contained, meaning they don’t require external sensors or connections to work. Instead, they use cameras mounted in the headset to track your movements and position. While you might think that an untethered system could connect wirelessly to a PS4, this is not the case. The Oculus headsets from the Rift through to the Oculus Quest 2 are all designed to run on Android operating systems like Windows.
The PS4 uses the Orbis OS, which is simply not compatible with the Oculus software. In essence, the PS4 and the Oculus headsets speak different languages, and no translators are available. Naturally, Sony wants to prevent other headsets from working on their console, so that users are forced to buy Sony’s PSVR headsets to experience VR on their console. It may be frustrating for those who want to play PS games on other VR headsets, but it’s not unexpected. A lot of companies these days make brand specific hardware so that you are encouraged to spend your money with that brand.
The HTC Vive was developed and produced by HTC and Valve. HTC, as a consumer electronics company, focused on the building of the headset and system. Valve, a video game development company, provided software and functionality advice and support. The first consumer units were released a month after the Oculus Rift in April 2016. It never reached the level of popularity of the Rift, but it still sold well.
Since its release, the Vive has gone through a number of updates and refits.
Initially, the Vive was developed as a tethered system, however, newer iterations are untethered systems.
The Vive headsets don’t rely on cameras to track the position and movements of the headsets. Instead, it uses base stations, which are also known as lighthouses. These lighthouses emit infrared pulses at timed intervals. The headset and controller pick up these signals.
The lighthouses are able to calculate the position of the headset and controllers based on how long it takes for them to pick up the infrared signals. It’s sort of like echo location.
As you can see, the HTC Vive system works quite differently from the PSVR system. This is one of the many reasons why you can’t use the HTC Vive on the PS4. After the Vive came the Vive Pro, which was an updated model of the original. It was still tethered but featured an extra camera on the headset and a more balanced design and form.
The Pro was followed by the Pro Eye, which included eye-tracking systems that allow you to interact with the system using just your eyes. This was specifically designed to be a more accessible system for people who can’t use handheld controllers.
The Vive Focus was the first self-contained unit from Vive. It has recently been discontinued in favor of the Vive Cosmos. The Cosmos is an untethered system with 6 camera sensors that track your waist and hip movements as well as your head movements.