Following reports that Sony’s PS4 virtual reality headset was on the way, the company finally unveiled its new device on Tuesday at the 2014 Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco.

President of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, Shuhei Yohida, said:  “Virtual reality is the next innovation from PlayStation that could shape the future of video games.”

Project Morpheus

The headset, which has been three years in the making, will work with the PlayStation 4 gaming console and uses inertial sensors and a PlayStation camera to track a user’s orientation and movement. As the player moves his or her head, the image of the virtual world moves with them, all in real-time.

Code-named Project Morpheus, the device comes with a 5-inch LCD panel and 90-degree field of vision. It also includes a gyroscope, an accelerometer and 3D audio.

“Morpheus enables developers to create experiences that deliver a sense of presence—where players feel as though they are physically inside the virtual world of a game,” said a Sony spokesperson. “Presence is like a window into another world that heightens the emotions gamers experience as they play.”

Releasing the headset at a gaming event is no doubt tactical on Sony’s part, giving it an opportunity to drum up some independent developer support, helping it compete with the likes of Oculus Rift. Yet Yoshida expressed his respect for Oculus Rift saying: “I have an enormous amount of respect for them,” he said. “We were inspired in our work by the enthusiastic reactions of developers and journalists who tried their prototypes.”

Sony has been keen to make the point that gaming is only one use for the virtual reality headset and it was mentioned that the company is working with NASA give users a Mars experience. This could help combat the skepticism that surrounds virtual reality, with critics claiming it is only a gimmick.

It will be interesting to watch how things now unfold. Which will be the more popular headset; Project Morpheus because there is already a base of six million PS4 users, or Oculus Rift because it was first to the party? What do you think?

[Image via inthegame]