Tracking

PlayStation VR’s tracking system uses the PlayStation Camera to track visible-light markers on the PSVR headset, PS4 controller, and PlayStation Move controllers. And while the system works well enough for a solid VR experience, it performs notably worse than the tracking we see on the Rift and Vive, and may be PSVR’s biggest downside in an otherwise impressive system.

Calibration & Alignment

You can (and should) calibrate the PSVR tracking system using software that’s built into the PS4. Through the PlayStation VR settings menu you can find the option which will ask you to hold the headset up to the camera and align it with an on-screen outline of the headset. This will be repeated for the front, sides, and back of the headset. The calibration process is similar for the PS4 controller and PlayStation Move controllers.

Camera alignment seems very important to achieving the best quality tracking the PSVR is capable of; unfortunately the system does a poor job of instructing the users how their camera and tracking space should be set up.

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Instead of just telling you how far you should be seated from the camera, the instruction booklet tells you a bunch of seemingly arbitrary distances, like to distance from the camera to the front of the tracking volume, the width of the front of the tracking volume (which doesn’t match the width of the rear of the tracking volume) the distance to the rear of the tracking volume, and, quite confusingly, doesn’t show the ideal angle or altitude of the camera at all (the booklet diagram could almost be misconstrued as telling you to place the camera on the floor at your feet).

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Optimizing the camera placement for seated vs. standing experiences was also not clear. Does one placement work best for both or should I move the camera? Only through experimentation did I find that mounted atop my TV seemed to be the best place, but even then it was tough to set the angle of the camera to work well for seated and standing experiences.

Sony would probably do well to be more instructive about helping users set up the ideal camera placement to achieve maximum tracking quality.

Tracking Quality

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After getting a properly aligned camera and calibrating the system, the positional tracking quality of PSVR does not consistently hit that sub-millimeter accuracy mark that we’ve become accustomed to with high-end desktop VR headsets like the Rift and the Vive. On the other hand, the rotational tracking latency is spot on and feels every bit as good as the Rift and Vive.

Headset

The PlayStation VR headset itself, with 9 tracking lights, is the most accurately tracked object of the system, with the PS Move controllers coming in second, and the PS4 controller coming in at a distant third.

Face-on, the headset’s tracking is decent, but it has a visibly apparent jitter inside that will make you feel a little wobbly from time to time, especially for standing experiences. For the most part, the tracking quality is good enough that I wasn’t getting nauseas in the headset, which is good, but you should feel your balance sway a bit here and there, especially when there’s nearfield objects floating close by (as you can see them jitter in relation to your head, even when you are hardly moving).

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Things get worse when you turn your head a significant amount, giving the camera less tracking lights to work with. I found that tracking jitter increased with fair consistency when turning my head, and when moving my head backward and forward perpendicular to the camera, the camera would often think I was moving closer to it by a few inches as I did so. More than anything else, I found this not-so-precise tracking more distracting than discomforting.

PlayStation Move

The PlayStation Move motion controllers suffer from a similar problem, and appear to have more tracking jitter than the headset (likely owed to their singular tracking light source). They still work well enough for intuitive motion gaming, but don’t have the same impressive accuracy that we’ve seen with the HTC Vive or Oculus Touch controllers. Fast movements especially (like swinging a sword or throwing things with much vigor) seem to be eschewed by most of the content we’ve seen so far, possibly due to limitations with the tracking.

Some PSVR experiences cause you to raise the Move controllers up in front of your head (like when aiming a gun), which can easily occlude the small number of markers on the headset, causing it to jitter more until you put your arms down.

DualShock Controller

playstation-vr-review-7The PS4 controller seems to be the least accurately tracked of object of the bunch. As such, it tends not to be used in experiences which require accurate tracking.

However at least one game I tried, Tumblr VR (which is a pretty cool game), can be played using the DualShock controller to balance blocks atop one another, but it’s jittery tracking can really detract from the experience. Thankfully the game supports the Move controllers which makes a huge difference.

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While the tracking might not be what we’re used to from the world of high-end desktop VR, PSVR experiences that are designed with the limitations in mind have proven to be effective and extremely fun.

Drift

Drift is something that’s common among IMU-only tracked VR headsets (like Gear VR and Cardboard), but it’s been effectively eliminated on systems that use outside-in tracking (like the Rift and the Vive) because those systems have a static frame of reference against which the drift can be corrected.

Curiously, despite also using an outside-in tracking system, I’ve still seen a fair share of drift of Playstation VR. The good news is that Sony has made it easy to reset at any time by holding the Options button for a few seconds (however some apps seem to only treat that reset as a positional calibration and not a rotational recentering).

Why it drift happens in the first place on PSVR though is a bit of a mystery to me. I haven’t been able to put my finger on it just yet, but it seems to happen worse in some experiences than others; it could be a case of newer drift-correction code not yet being applied globally. Whatever the case, there’s hope that this could be improved through software with later updates.

Continued on Page 4 – Setup & Experience

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  • craylon

    Let me be the first to thank you for this very in depth article.
    I am currently very happy with my Vive but I will definitely considder PSVR and Pro in a year from now or so when the dust settled and the content situation matured further.

    • Charles

      There will probably be a much better Rift or Vive by then.

  • CURTROCK

    Excellent & thorough review. It’s clear from your impressions that PSVR is a worthy member of the current VR triad. I especially appreciate you pointing out that the entire non-VR PS ecosystem is available to play inside the headset. This feature alone makes this a must-buy, for me.

  • LLyan

    Hi, thank you for this detailed article. I recently got to test the PS VR and I was very happy with the experience. A question though about the cinematic mode. Were you able to test the different screen sizes and if so, how was the quality? Any screendoor effect on the largest screen, or is it workable as a second screen?

    Thx!

    • Simon Wood

      An interesting point from Sony FAQ is that Cinematic view does not actively use the camera (just need one to set up, apparently?).
      So I wonder whether this will result in a gradual yaw if playing 2D games (or movies – before they have a proper cinema app).

  • Get Schwifty!

    Definitely plan on getting one, after the Touch comes out and I can get an order in. Disappointing to hear about the tracking, but honestly, at this stage people are wanting perfection for what are fairly low prices for new tech, so it’s not surprising its only “good enough”.

    • Paolo Leoncini

      I don’t find the PS VR tracking so bad, it’s surprisingly stable (no jitter at all), quite large area, and it rarely loose you, so, in my opinion, is more than good enough.
      Furthermore the camera also track your hand-held controller (the Dual-shock one I mean), so in the virtual scene you’ll find it graphically-represented in 6-DoF.

  • Matthew Roche

    I agree with the excellent and thorough review. I liked the part where you went over how IPD adjustments work with the PS VR and tips of finding the sweet spot.

  • wheeler

    Thanks for mentioning the OLED mura. So many people fail to mention this when evaluating a VR HMD. It can basically make or break dark experiences.

  • David Herrington

    I have personally tried PSVR after extensive use with a Vive and I was really impressed with the tracking and visuals that they could get out of a PS4. I hate to say it but it really does “punch above its weight class” and I think it will make the most money out of all the contenders so far. PSVR isn’t a bad thing guys, it is a great deal for high end VR.

    • kipsteele

      agreed. I have tested a game on one and it was fantastic. so the question really seems to be to oculus of what to do now.

      • Arian Taghdiri

        not really, PSVR tracking doesn’t hold a candle to the HTC Vive. Roomscale really is what makes VR, so PSVR really has a ways to go, in terms of sales though yes, I am sure it will be successful and kill the vive and oculus sales wise. But as a vr device is sits in the back, it does have better games for now though so I look forward to getting mine and hopefully this means HTC and Oculus will get some of these games.

        • Wiines 007

          It’s Sony, they will ALWAYS have the better games.

      • a corn

        you kids are hilarious.

        “Toyota released a cheap car. Ferrari is doomed”.

        LOL

        • Jon

          bad analogy, ferrari would go under if it weren’t owned by fiat. point is, more people will likely try psvr than a vive so if enough people try it once and say it sucks then devs could abandon vr as a platform because it doesn’t sell. its like drinking mcdonalds coffee and being like “coffee is alright i guess” but no one told you that gevalia/starbucks/etc existed.

        • Wiines 007

          If everyone is buying the Toyota the Ferrari will just sit at the dealership looking good. Its public knowledge that the Rift and Vive did not sell well, compared to projections. PSVR is our last hope to keep VR around.

          • Get Schwifty!

            Not exactly true, sales estimates are about where they should be (forget analysts, they made up their own numbers) considering how things went with launch. Oculus wants approximately 400,000 sales for 2016, it’s a good bet they are approaching around say 100,000 by now and will get a surge for Xmas, still way off from 400K, but when you factor in the delayed launch by nearly four to five months its not too surprising. The other factor is Facebook realizes that its a movement that will take many years to realize its full potential, so they are not going “screw it, they didn’t make this years numbers” and bail out. HTC/Vive, now that might be another matter entirely, but I suspect they will hang in there too.

        • “Toyota released a cheap car. Ferrari is doomed”.

          That analogy only works if you’re prepared to pay ten times as much for the games as well, to make up for the lower playerbase.

      • Get Schwifty!

        And Vive if you are going to draw that point out… both Rift and Vive face competition from Sony, but I think it will only help. Many folks own a console and PC if they are serious gamers..

    • a corn

      I think the horrible tracking everyone is experiencing is a bad sign for more expensive vr. people will think this is as good as it gets and call it a gimmick. Because at this stage it is a gimmick. You cant touch the ground. You can’t raise your hands up all the way while standing.

      • Wiines 007

        The analog sticks were considered a gimmick until they cought on. Plus, going into a gaming world isn’t a gimmick. It’s the very reason why people play games, immersion. VR might be a fad, but not a gimmick. Poor choice of word.

  • A sentence in paragraph 7 reads “That elegance may *however* lead to some fragility *however*.”

    Just FYI

  • Sky Castle

    I want to like the PSVR, but it looks like there’s nothing but short experiences and tech demos. Steam has much of the same thing but at least their vr library is huge. I’m going to wait a couple years for the big AAA titles before getting a PSVR.

    • Wiines 007

      You clearly haven’t researched the launch window games. You couldn’t be more wrong.

      • Sky Castle

        You clearly have no clue what I like and don’t like. None of the PSVR game look interesting besides the AAA games which are one level of VR with the exception of RE7, and none of them are full exclusive, so I’ll be playing them on the Vive.

        • Robbie Zeigler

          Sure…..

  • Great review. Worried about a few points like tracking. Will have to test one to see.

  • wowgivemeabreak

    On one hand, I like it if it expands the vr industry since every vr user should benefit. On the other, this apparent less than ideal tracking I have read from multiple reviewers could be a big negative for the industry if people assume that is how all vr headsets will be.

    I think Sony shouldn’t have skimped out on the tracking, even if it meant pricing the headset a bit higher. No good having something that will make people put off by it and not want to use it than simply making it correctly work and cost a bit more.

    As for the review, that was a good read and I appreciate the detail.

    • Wiines 007

      Sony has already pattened a VR glove and is in development. Research it if you’re interested.

    • zero

      No good having a product that’s so expensive that people won’t buy it either.

  • George Vieira IV

    The sweet spot was mentioned, but didn’t give a comparison to the Rift or Vive. I thought the biggest advantage of the Fresnel lenses was their increased sweet spot, at least that was the thing I noticed most going from a DK2 to the CV.

    If they were able to obtain a similar sweet spot to the Rift without the “god rays” that is a big deal. Being able to look around with my eyes and see things in focus is paramount, but I do hate those light artifacts :P

    • sfmike

      I agree, the “god rays” have really soured me on my Rift. Having tried the PSVR I was very pleased with the field of view and lack of those damn Fresnel lens. It’s like viewing the world with cataracts of fingerprints on your glasses. Really destroys presence when any bright object appears. PSVR glass lens are an improvement to me.

  • Russell Dornisch

    No one has mentioned in a single review in regards to non-gaming VR. Can you get access to other experiences such as video VR, Sports VR, Etc.? Or will there need to be an app in the future? I know the browser works but simply browsing to VR video won’t give full VR experiences.

    • benz145

      This is something I wanted to touch on but couldn’t make the review too much more bulky.

      The answer is yes, Sony is opening the door for some ‘apps’ that aren’t really games. ‘Within’ is a video portal which is already on the platform. That means it’s possible that apps like NextVR, Altspace, etc could come to PSVR.

      • Russell Dornisch

        Do you know if regular VR video that you can find on the web can be used, or only through the apps that will be coming later. I know Netflix was listed as having an app coming later for it.

        • benz145

          As of now I’m not aware of any VR browser functionality on PSVR beyond just using the regular system browser while the headset is on. I believe there might be a way to play 360 videos that you load locally onto the PS4, but need to double check on that.

  • RockstarRepublic

    Too bad they did not gear this towards PC as well. Would be a good way to get VR into both PC and console gamer’s hands. Hell could possibly get them to buy PS4’s if they didnt have one already.

  • Till Eulenspiegel

    I don’t owned any VR headset but I pay attention to all the reviews. From my observation, PSVR will most likely win the first generation.

    Vive requires a bigger space and those cables hanging on the back of the neck is distracting and the fact that you are standing, those cables can be a hazard. Playing games while standing is not comfortable, even if it is more immersive you will get tired after 30 mins. Vive is really meant for the arcade, something that you pay a few dollars to experience for 15 mins. Most gamers are couch potatoes and they want to play for hours.

    Rift is for the PC and sitting at the desk is not very comfortable either unless you bring the PC to your lounge room – but most people will not do that, they want a system that fits in with their lifestyle not the other way around.

    Mobile VR is only good for 360 videos and Youtube. Having to put your phone inside a VR headset each time you want to use it, is tedious and it drains the battery.

    PSVR seems to be the sweet spot for price and performance. Using it with a PS4 slim is so portable – you don’t even need a TV. The slim is like a laptop that you can carry in a bag with PSVR, or move around the house. This is the only VR system that fits in with people’s lifestyle and that people will want to use regularly.

    • Hotcakes

      AIUI the PSVR needs a TV for first time configuration, so that kills the portability theory.

      • Till Eulenspiegel

        Is that so? I didn’t know that. Regardless, it’s easier to carry the PS4 slim and the PSVR to a friend’s house than other VR system where you have to bring your desktop PC. You can of course get a Alienware laptop but it cost 10 times more than PS4.

      • Arwin van Arum

        That’s just first time configuration, and even then you can use remote play with, say, a PS VIta or any PC around.

    • Aragon

      You can calibrate HTC Vive as a standing experience, in this case you don’t need a big room. And you can use the Vive also as a seated experience if you want, every Oculus game is also playable on the Vive. Another big advantage of the Vive is the Huge tracking area. In my flat I have a roomscale behind the couch I could use but I it works also when I sit at the couch, both without moving the camera, this is not possible with Oculus or PSVR.

      And 360° games only work with Vive. It is still by far the best VR Headset currently available.

      But I admit that PSVR is more comfortable and has better lenses than the Vive, It’s a pity that Vives lenses are not exchangable.

  • Paolo Leoncini

    I’m a VR professional and bought PS VR for my son – we are both enthusiasts of it, and I’m very satisfied also by the tracking despite I didn’t calibrate it accurately.
    What I’d like to point out instead is the poor, possibly not at all, color distortion correction operated on the warped image. To be self-esplaining, the three basic colors, RGB, get distorted differently by the spherical lens depending on their wavelength. Thus, by considering “exact” the undistortion for the green (i.e. it doesn’t get undistorted further), there are two further polynomial undistortions to apply for the two R and B color components, usually occuring in the same shader as the geometric barrel undistortion. The desired effect is to make RGB to fall on the same “viewed position” all over the entire field of view.
    Well, in the PS VR such color undistortion is not effective, or, even worst, not done at all. The center hot spot is not touched by this problem because of the low distortion operated by the lens, but the peripheral of the field of view is. It is more evident as graphics is done by lines, or other thin primitives (text, …) with solid (i.e. non textured) color.
    It’s a pity, and hope Sony will improve (firmware upgrade?) the PS VR on this aspect.

  • HoriZon

    Just can’t get hold of one for love nor money well unless you wanna pay double price for one.

  • glassmilk

    The PSVR has the best display of all VR headsets. It has a lower resolution as the Vive and the Oculus but it has NO annoying screen door effect (this is totally impressive).
    (as i understand it they use a “real screen door” in front of the display to BEND the light, this way the eye can’t see the gaps between the pixels)

    Now the question: What prevents Vive or Oculus from using a similar technology?
    Patent rights? Any info?

    No VR side has a topic about this important topic.

    Is it so hard to add a milk glass to the display?
    I would instantly buy a VR headset if the annoying screen door effect gets removed.

    • Synyster Gates

      Sir, what the heck are you talking about? Bend the light? Rift and Vive use pentile display with 2 subpixels per pixel while PSVR uses RGB with 3 subpixels per pixels, making the count of subpixels in the PSVR higher than the concurents. That fixes the screendoor effect. Both Vive and PSVR excel at their own strong points (Vive at almost perfect tracking + room vr, PSVR at the screen/lens quality, comfort and huge userbase = more publishers interested in the platform), while the rift ended somewhat at a mediocre VR experience, not trying to get strong in a niche advantage.