The first half of 2016 will see millions of consumers viewing the world through a virtual lens, with the failed field of virtual reality set to come back stronger and more convincing than ever.
Once believed to be a one-side fight with Facebook's Oculus Rift favored, Sony's has been beefing up PlayStation VR and giving it the support it needs to confuse gamers once set on buying the Rift.
In this corner, a product of Facebook by way of a massive crowdfunding campaign, stands the Oculus Rift. It's the headset that made a lot of people forget about the Virtual Boy and the one that likely inspired the coming VR revolution.
The Oculus Rift gained such a warm response on Kickstarter, Facebook bought the startup for $2 billion and promised to keep the focus on gaming while it incubated the headset.
The Rift promises industry leading performance and graphics, but it'll need to be tethered to at least a midrange gaming PC for now.
And the challenger, standing opposite the Rift and hailing from Sony's lab, is PlayStation VR or Project Morpheus. Sony had been dabbling in VR for home theaters before Oculus, the company, rekindled mainstream interest in the field. However, it wasn't until the Rift turned heads that Sony gave VR another try, with the focus on gaming this time.
While the Rift will need a $600 plus gaming PC to power it, PS VR just needs to be tethered to a PlayStation 4 -- and those are going for about $350 right now.
The Rift has an extra 10 degrees of field of view on PS VR, giving Facebook's product more opportunity to keep gamers immersed in the experience. Moreover, the Rift's 2,160 x 1,200 resolution edges out PS VR's 960 × 1,080-per eye pixel count.
PS VR has a slightly higher refresh rate, capable of output frames at a frequency of 120 Hz, but that's a power draw and, being attached to a PlayStation, it doesn't have the unbounded resources of a gaming PC.
While Sony has confirmed that PS VR will bear a 5.7-inch panel, Oculus VR has yet to reveal the size of the Rift's faceplate. Both headsets will utilize organic LED for their displays. They'll both support 3D audio, a must, and connections to both HDMI and USB.
The Rift will leverage a magnetometer to orientate the headset in virtual spaces. Both head-mounted displays will make use of accelerometers and gyroscopes for tracking. PS VR will track eyes with the PlayStation Eye Tracking platform, while the Rift will lean on the external Constellation tracking system.
Pricing has yet to be announced for either the Rift or PS VR, though we know roughly when they'll release. The Rift is set for a Q1 commercial launch, while Sony says consumers can get their hands on PS VR during the first half of 2016.
So which headset will come out victorious, at least in the short run? We'll let our friends over at IHS Research give their take.
"Overall we expect a slow ramp up of adoption and consumption of VR content," said Piers Harding-Rolls, analyst at IHS. "While the market is more advanced than ever, there are still a number of hurdles that need to be overcome before we see broader consumer adoption."
The research group estimates that PlayStation VR will lay claim to about a 21 percent claim of the market for VR in 2016, with both the Vive and Rift taking a share less than half that size. The Rift is expected to grab an 8 percent slice of the market and the Vive is forecast to claim about a 7 percent share.