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Posts tagged ‘PS4’

24
Apr
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One of Activision’s top moneymakers gets a new entry in Skylanders: Trap Team


Like taxes, iPhones and, well, Madden, you can count on a new Skylanders game every year. If you’re unfamiliar with the franchise, that may just be a symptom of not being around kids — the toy / video game series is a dominant force in the kids gaming market, sharing responsibility with biggies like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft for bringing in 80 percent of Activision’s earnings in 2013. Each new entry in the game series comes with a new physical device for reading toy figurines; when said figurines are placed on the device (called a “portal”), they’re transported into the game world and playable in-game.

Between the figures ($5 – $7 apiece, on average) and the games (anywhere from $7 to $60), it’s easy to understand why the franchise is so profitable. Thankfully, the franchise is also lauded by most critics as a pretty decent game, too. The next entry, Skylanders: Trap Team, arrives this October — the first time the series is on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One — and it’s the largest game in the franchise to date.

When Skylanders: Trap Team launches on October 5th in North America (the 10th in Europe), it arrives with a new portal, and also even larger Skylanders figures than before. The hook this time around (beyond the whole “putting a toy from the real world into a game” thing) is the ability to “trap” in-game enemies. Using one of eight “Traptanium Traps” — that’s eight colored real-world toys that must be purchased — you can “trap” enemies (store the character data from the game). That enemy can then be used in-game, just like a Skylander. This enables players to quickly switch between two characters, one Skylander and one boss character, on-the-fly. There’s also a neat interactivity aspect wherein the portal now has a speaker and the boss character, once captured, will comment on the game in real-time.

We spoke with Toys for Bob’s Paul Reiche, head of the studio that both created the Skylanders franchise and headed up development of Skylanders: Team Trap. Before you ask: yes, all previous Skylanders toys work with this new one. All the parents in the crowd say “Yay-a!” Reiche (pronounced “Richy”) walked us through the new game, the scope of the series, and spoke to the design of the new characters. What’s with the new traps? Why are the characters larger? And what the heck is “traptanium”? Allow him to explain in the video above, and get a much closer look at all the new hardware while you’re at it.

Video produced by Edgar Alvarez and Daniel Orren.

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20
Apr
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Weekends with Engadget: Windows Phone 8.1 and Gear 2 reviews, the anonymous internet and more!


Welcome to Weekends with Engadget, a quick peek back at the top headlines from the past seven days — all handpicked by the editors here at the site. For even more action, subscribe to our Flipboard magazine!

Windows Phone 8.1 review: Microsoft’s mobile OS finally feels whole

Microsoft’s mobile OS just got a whole lot better. Complete with keyboard swipe gestures, a notification center and Cortana, the virtual assistant, version 8.1 brings Windows Phone into adulthood.

My connected home turned me into a spy and an addict

Ten years ago, adjusting the temperature of your home from a smartphone might have seemed like something from a science fiction movie. But in this age of hyper-connectivity, it’s easier to get wrapped up in the quantifiable aspects of life than you might think. Just ask our own Joseph Volpe.

Sony Xperia Z2 review: a big, powerful slab of a phone

The Xperia Z2 is just as waterproof as the original Z1 and it packs a slightly larger display and better battery life — not to mention it’s several grams lighter. But at 5.2-inches, Sony’s curveless flagship might be too big for its your britches.

Shh, it’s a Secret: The allure of the anonymous internet

You can say almost anything you want on the internet, often without consequence. But are there advantages to being truly anonymous? Our own Nicole Lee spent some time with an app called Secret to find out.

Samsung Gear 2 review: much improved, but that doesn’t mean you should buy it

Samsung’s next gen smartwatch, the Gear 2, is indeed an improvement over its predecessor. It sports a slimmer design and a much longer battery life, though it’s $50 more than the original. Add in a skimpy app selection, and it still might not be worth investing in Samsung’s wrist-worn platform.

Here’s Amazon’s phone: six cameras and a 4.7-inch screen

We’ve all heard the rumors, but BGR claims it’s gotten hold of Amazon’s first phone — and it has six cameras. The 4.7-inch handset (shown above) might not appear very sleek or attractive. But don’t worry, that’s just an enclosure.

Apple CarPlay coming to Pioneer’s in-dash systems this summer

Pioneer’s NEX line of five in-dash entertainment systems will get Apple’s CarPlay support through a firmware update set to arrive this summer. Owners with an iPhone 5, 5c or 5s will be able to take advantage of Apple Maps, Siri and more!

Google beats Facebook to acquisition of drone maker

Earlier this week, Google agreed to buy Titan Aerospace, a solar-powered drone manufacturer that had previously been in talks with Facebook. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company plans to use the high-flying aircraft in collaboration with its Project Loon.

MSI GS60 Ghost review: a gaming rig in Ultrabook’s clothing

Thin, light and simple: MSI’s latest gaming laptop is all of those things and more. Dubbed the GS60 Ghost, this slim aluminum machine has a bright 15.3-inch display and ultrabook-esque buttonless trackpad. All in all, the Ghost is a great choice for serious gamers, provided they can endure its less-than-average battery life.

Sony pumps up its PS4 update with game pre-loading and SHAREfactory video editor

In a recent blog post, Sony announced it’s preparing a 1.70 firmware update for the PS4 that will include a brand new video editor (called SHAREfactory) and pre-game loading functionality. Exactly when it will be released, however, is still to be known.

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19
Apr
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Play: The frantic, fun and infuriating Trials Fusion


Some games are so challenging, frustrating and physically draining that your controller could easily explode against the nearest wall at any second. Trials Fusion is one of those games: A repetitive, soul-destroying platformer that’ll have you playing the same level for hours on end, all in the hope you’ll shave mere milliseconds from your previous best. However, it’s only from the epicentre of this nightmare, through the tired workings of your callused, nail-bitten hands, that one experiences true gaming gratification. As with other games of this genre like Super Meat Boy or the Super Monkey Ball series, to name a few, the premise is devilishly simple. You must successfully navigate an obstacle course in the least possible time, mistakes not recommended. As its name suggests, Trials Fusion is based on the sport of motorcycle trials, with some motocross mixed in. Just it’s more arcadey, and probably harder.

Stop, go. Lean forward, lean back. These are the tools you have at your disposal, and combined with the game’s realistic (or should we say predictable?) physics engine, all you’ll need. The baby of a long line of trials-based titles, Fusion introduces a basic trick system for use on special, stunt-orientated levels that add a little variety to the classic game mode. Track challenges, too, give you other objectives to focus on when racing the clock has you burnt out, but don’t take that to mean they’re easy. Variety’s no bad thing, but fundamentally this instalment is the same as every other Trials game before it, which is awesome. New tracks, better graphics: Sold.

Fusion doesn’t tamper with the formula of its ancestors for good reason, but that probably means you’ll either like it, or you won’t. Tracks get much longer, and much harder, pretty quickly, and there’s nothing new in Fusion that’ll prevent a casual gamer from succumbing to the grind. Only the truly committed will be rewarded with the euphoria that is nailing a perfect run and climbing the leaderboards while your friends wallow in anonymity. But, with this comes the promise of fruitless evenings, sleepless nights and premature aging.

As much as we’re suckers for classic Trials gameplay, there are some notable issues with Fusion. The game’s menu screens are a jumbled, awful mess, fand 3D models on the bike selection screen take almost as long to load as levels do (Xbox One digital copy). Then there’s the lack of true online multiplayer. Sure, the leaderboards give you one way to compete against the world, but the side-by-side supercross racing of Trials Evolution is nowhere to be found. A similar and supposedly better “Competition” mode is due to fill that void within the next few months, but that doesn’t excuse its absence at launch. Until that arrives, though, you’ll have to rely on the level creator and community-generated tracks to hold your attention outside of the main game.

Anyway, enough from us. It’s halfway through the bank holiday already, and you won’t make any impact on the leaderboards enjoying the sun with family and friends. Clock’s ticking…

Trials Fusion is out now for PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Windows PCs.

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18
Apr
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Daily Roundup: Street View vs. captchas, living in a connected home and more!


You might say the day is never really done in consumer technology news. Your workday, however, hopefully draws to a close at some point. This is the Daily Roundup on Engadget, a quick peek back at the top headlines for the past 24 hours — all handpicked by the editors here at the site. Click on through the break, and enjoy.

My connected home turned me into a spy and an addict

Ten years ago, adjusting the temperature of your home from a smartphone might have seemed like something from a science fiction movie. But in this age of hyper-connectivity, it’s easier to get wrapped up in the quantifiable aspects of life than you might think. Just ask our own Joseph Volpe.

MSI GS60 Ghost review: a gaming rig in Ultrabook’s clothing

Thin, light and simple: MSI’s latest gaming laptop is all of those things and more. Dubbed the GS60 Ghost, this slim aluminum machine has a bright 15.3-inch display and ultrabook-esque buttonless trackpad. All in all, the Ghost is a great choice for serious gamers, provided they can endure its less-than-average battery life.

Sony pumps up its PS4 update with game pre-loading and SHAREfactory video editor

In a recent blog post, Sony announced it’s preparing a 1.70 firmware update for the PS4 that will include a brand new video editor (called SHAREfactory) and pre-game loading functionality. Exactly when it will be released, however, is still to be known.

Google’s latest Street View algorithm beats its bot-sniffing security system

Apparently, Google’s algorithm used by Street View vehicles is so good it can beat reCAPTCHA images 99 percent of the time. If that makes you feel unsafe, don’t worry. The Mountain View company says there are additional safeguards beyond simply typing in the right answer.

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18
Apr
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Titanfall pushes Xbox One sales to 5 million total, but it can’t pass PlayStation


Sony and Microsoft’s console sales were neck and neck for awhile, but the gap is starting to widen: according to the latest NPD numbers, Sony is winning the race. Yesterday, the Japanese hardware manufacturer announced that it has moved more than seven million PlayStation 4s worldwide — today Microsoft countered with a total of five million, trailing Sony in both monthly and lifelong sales. A stark difference, sure, but it’s not all bad: the Xbox exclusive Titanfall is the industry’s top-selling title right now, and the second highest selling for the platform overall. The new console is also outpacing the Xbox 360′s first-year sales by more than 60 percent; it’s doing well, it’s just not top dog. The latest inFamous game (a PS4 exclusive) ranked the second highest selling game for the month of March, followed by multiplatform titles like South Park: The Stick of Truth, Call of Duty Ghosts and Dark Souls II.

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Via: Joystiq

Source: Xbox

17
Apr
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Sony pumps up its PS4 update with game pre-loading and SHAREfactory video editor


Sony just announced sales of seven million PlayStation 4 consoles and promised more details on its upcoming software update would follow soon, now here they are. We still don’t have an exact timetable for when firmware 1.70 will arrive, but now we know more about its new “SHAREfactory” video editor and that game pre-loading is in the update. Many people are familiar with pre-loading via Steam and other PC services, which allows gamers to download pre-ordered games ahead of their release, then simply unlock the digital copy on the day it’s “released.” All it takes is enabling the PS4′s “auto download” feature, and you’re done, no more waiting while overloaded servers choke on release day.

The other big addition is SHAREfactory, a rich video editor app that will let gamers spice up their game recordings (which are getting a resolution bump to 720p) with filters and effects, music and picture-in-picture feeds from the PlayStation Camera. The music element is particularly interesting because it mentions both provided tracks and the ability to import your own original songs, even though the PS4 can’t play MP3s right now. If that’s a surprise addition to the list later, we won’t argue. One other tweak is letting users decide which friends they will share a clip or screenshot with from the Share menu itself, instead of having to go back into settings first. Additionally, a Japanese press release indicates the update will bring Remote Play to Sony’s Vita TV mini-console and the ability to archive those HD Ustream / Twitch broadcasts online.

While the Xbox One’s Upload Studio shares some of the same features, Sony is going a step further by letting users post SHAREfactory videos directly to Facebook, or move them directly to an external USB storage device to upload them elsewhere (YouTube). We called out the PS4′s lack of a video editor when we compared the two system’s services and apps, and while we’ll have to wait for some hands-on time to be sure, that gap may be closed. Of course, if you prefer DIY capture and editing, FW 1.70′s HDCP-off that will allow video capture of games over HDMI will be the big addition, but this makes it easier for anyone to try it. Now, if only we knew when we will get to see the new update (and, hopefully, successive ones to fill in missing features like MP3, Blu-ray 3D, DLNA).

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Source: PlayStation Blog

17
Apr
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Sony sold seven million PS4s already, beating its own predictions


Sony was quick to pat itself on the back for passing five million PlayStation 4s sold more than a month earlier than it predicted, and now that the fiscal year is over there’s more to celebrate. As of April 6th, Sony says it has sold more than seven million PS4s worldwide, covering more than 72 countries/regions. Games are moving too, with 20.5 million sold in stores or as downloads since launch, while players have already punched that Share button over 135 million times. We’ve had multiple updates on Sony’s stats since the last time we heard specific worldwide numbers from Microsoft, which seems to still trail in the hardware sales race — we should know more about the situation in North America after the NPD reports for March come out tomorrow. Despite relative radio silence on sales, updates on the Xbox One have added a number of features to its software recently, and Sony has revealed the PS4 will get a big update with external drive support, HDCP off and more soon. A post on the PlayStation Blog claims information on that is close by, but for now gaming fans (bored of Infamous: Second Son / Titanfall) can focus on what’s really important: which system moved more units.

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Source: Sony (PRNewswire), PlayStation Blog

11
Apr
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An oral history of the last 20 years of gaming, as told by PlayStation’s Shuhei Yoshida


The three weeks out of every month that Shuhei Yoshida’s in Japan, he has the same routine every day. He wakes up, opens a tablet, and gets back to work on PlayStation consumer feedback via his favorite interaction tool: Twitter. The man who heads Sony’s PlayStation group is incredibly, perhaps detrimentally, accessible on social media. It’s not his job, but a role he’s taken on. “It’s my personal time, but since lots of people tweet to me, I’m doing this almost official customer service,” he says.

After 20-plus years working on PlayStation, Yoshida’s beyond overqualified for customer service. He’s been with Sony’s PlayStation arm from its creation, and helped shepherd franchises from idea to mainstream norms: Gran Turismo, Crash Bandicoot, Uncharted. The list goes on.

Yoshida spoke with PlayStation 4 lead architect (and other game industry legend) Mark Cerny last evening in California, where he detailed his storied history in the game industry.

Before we get to that, though, it’s important to establish that Yoshida is an incredibly prolific gamer. He owns two of every game console. Why? So he can play Japanese and US games alike. He also says that he’s been banned from Nintendo’s MiiVerse social network. Twice. “The first time was because I had my Twitter account in my profile and that’s against the rules,” he says. “The second time is because I wrote, ‘I love PS.’ You’re not supposed to promote a commercial product in MiiVerse, so they correctly interpreted ‘PS’ as ‘PlayStation,’” he says with a laugh.

Life Before Sony

Prior to joining Sony, Yoshida flirted with studying physics and the work of Einstein, but his dad quickly shot that down, pushing him to a more practical major. So in college he studied economics and business — when he actually went, that is. He says that in Japan, business students don’t really attend class, and that the four or five students who would, took notes and shared them with everyone who wasn’t there. He spent six months working in Australia at the time, and when he got back to Japan he had all the answers to the tests waiting for him. “In my senior year in Japan, I didn’t go to any classes at all.”

Immediately after graduating, Yoshida joined Sony. In hindsight, his reasoning is a little selfish, though. Because his dad more or less forced him to switch majors, he wanted to get out of the country. “I wanted to run away from home as soon as possible because of that,” he says, half-joking. “When I say this, it might sound incredible… but I was thinking, ‘maybe Sony will make games in the future and when they do, I’m going to join that group.’”

Sony being an international company helped Yoshida make his decision, too. The firm sent him to study at UCLA for two years, and only then did he finally start learning about business principals like statistics and microeconomics. Since he was getting a paycheck, Yoshida had the resources to spend time traveling around the Western states and even Europe during summer break, when other students were typically working.

After graduating, he traveled back to Sony HQ in Japan where he spent nine months working with the PC group on a project that was ultimately cancelled. He bounced over to the corporate strategy group after that. It was here that he met then-Sony chairman Ken Kutaragi and work on the PlayStation began.

The formation of Sony Computer Entertainment

Sony Computer Entertainment, Yoshida says, started in Japan as a joint venture between Sony’s hardware division and its music wing. In the team’s early days, it approached signing and curating development teams much like it would a band — something that Parappa the Rapper mastermind (and J-pop singer) Masaya Matsuura loved. The scrappy PlayStation team had a lot to learn from the game industry, Yoshida admits, but it wanted to create something new at the same time.

“We believed that a game could become entertainment for everyone,” he says — not just kids. “The reason the company was named Sony Computer Entertainment instead of Sony Game Company or something like that is because we believed that games could be bigger than they were.”

Four years later, SCE had all of Japan’s major publishers signed on to make games for the platform. Yoshida explains that the big thing for the market was getting the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest franchises on PlayStation, but after he’d achieved that goal he lost interest a bit. “What’s next? We got all the support from the industry, where do we go?” he asks. It was then that he moved from business development to a producer role on the product side.

The Birth of Crash Bandicoot

If it wasn’t for Nintendo, Crash Bandicoot might have been too difficult to play. Yoshida says that one of the benefits of being new on the scene was that Japanese publishers were keen to pass wisdom Sony’s way. The Mario-house “really helped others” by using test feedback generated from consumers play-testing in-development games. “As soon as I moved into game production, I was the heaviest user of the (testing) group,” he says.

Up to that point, Cerny says, his Crash Bandicoot team was making a game for seasoned gamers like themselves and it was too difficult for the average consumer or kid. “You (Yoshida) were not familiar with games, so you thought you had to do testing,” Cerny says. “We were familiar, so we thought we didn’t have to, ironically.”

Cerny taking his input seriously and using Yoshida’s testing more made Yoshida “so happy,” he says. One of his associate producers would count every player-death and send it to Cerny, who’d then realize where a checkpoint should be added. “We started to think about difficulty. Are our games something consumers play?” Cerny asks. “The idea was you had to find real consumers, study their real behaviors and report back in.”

Working with “The Father of PlayStation”

VIDEO GAME EXPO

Yoshida spent 10 years working under Ken Kutaragi, and he admits that without him that PlayStation wouldn’t have happened. Humbly, Yoshida says that without Kutaragi, he wouldn’t have a job, either. “I have nothing but respect for what he has done for me,” he says. At dinner once, Kutaragi turned to him and said that he knew Yoshida didn’t necessarily like him, but he knew that Yoshida liked working for him because he could do exciting work as a result. “I said ‘yes, exactly.’

Working with Kutaragi was incredibly difficult, Yoshida says, because he could do an immediate 180 in terms of what he wanted. On the engineering team, trying to predict where he might alter direction was “a very difficult job,” Yoshida says. “Every week his direction and instructions could change.”

Also tough was that he struggled to give compliments to coworkers. “I was complimented by Ken twice!” says Yoshida. “When I say this to my colleagues, they say ‘twice? That’s a lot!” Those flow much more freely from Yoshida. “For me, giving a complement is free, it’s like a smile from McDonald’s,” he says. “But still, we all love Ken.”

Working with Kutaragi was incredibly difficult, Yoshida says, because he could do an immediate 180 in terms of what he wanted.

After Kutaragi’s sudden departure in 2006, Yoshida felt threatened by internal conversations at Sony that questioned the need for its worldwide studio team’s existence. After consulting then-chairman Akira Sato, he pitched Kutaragi’s successor Kaz Hirai on leading Sony Worldwide Studios. A few years later, work began on the PS Vita and PS4 — with direct involvement from Yoshida’s army of developers.

Enough digital ink’s been spilled about the partnership between developers and the new PlayStation hardware team, though. What’s notable in this story is that Worldwide Studios went from teetering on the brink of extinction to becoming the backbone of Sony Computer Entertainment in a few short years.

Sean Buckley and Ben Gilbert contributed to this post; Image Credit: AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian.

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11
Apr
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Xbox One Titanfall bundle now costs £349, the same as a PS4 in the UK


Next-gen console price wars have officially hit the UK, and they’re getting serious. Going one better than their US counterparts, British retailers have slashed the cost of the Xbox One Titanfall edition by £50, with both Amazon and Asda currently offering the bundle for £349. For those keeping track, that means you’ll get an Xbox One and its most popular game for the same price as a standard PlayStation 4. Microsoft originally charged £429 at launch, but dropped its recommended retail price to £399 around three months later. The PS4 may still have an slight lead over its rival in terms of sales, but with recent price reductions and the appearance of weaponised mechs, Microsoft will hope it can begin to reverse that trend.

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Via: Joystiq

Source: Amazon UK, Asda

11
Apr
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Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida loves that Facebook bought Oculus, says it helps validate PlayStation’s efforts


“I woke up that morning and saw the announcement,” Shuhei Yoshida tells us, remembering the day Facebook acquired Oculus VR. “And I was like, yeah!” Yoshida laughs and thrusts his arms in the air like an excited child. “For me, it was a validation for VR.” As head of Sony Computer Entertainment’s Worldwide Studios, virtual reality (and Sony’s Project Morpheus) has become important to Yoshida. He wants to see it, as a medium, to succeed.

“We meant to validate Oculus by announcing Morpheus, and the Oculus guys knew what we were working on. I think they were waiting for us to make the announcement, so it would be Sony and Oculus together,” he explains backstage at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. “…but now Oculus being acquired by Facebook is helping to validate our efforts.” It’s big-picture thinking. Yoshida already liked the idea of Sony and Oculus calling attention to each other’s efforts, but adding the Facebook name to the mix broadens the duo’s exposure. “More people will know about VR!”

Oculus being acquired by Facebook is helping to validate our efforts.

Zuckerberg’s vision for the purchase intrigues him too. “Mark said be believes VR can be the next platform after mobile,” Yoshida said. “That’s big thinking, and kind of excites our thinking.” Sony’s team has already been exploring uses for VR outside of traditional gaming, he explains, but nothing as broad as Zuckerberg’s statements. “We’ve thought of doing virtual travel or something, but talking about a new platform? What does that mean?” Yoshida says it’s given him something to think about.

Of course, a broader platform for VR means the technology will see more use — and that technology still has several usability hurdles to conquer. “VR of the past, including our own prototype, has been very difficult to use in terms of getting headaches and becoming nauseated,” he said. “Those early prototypes had larger latency and the positional tracking may not have worked as well. I feel really sorry for people developing VR stuff! They have to test it! With the kit we have now, what we demonstrated at GDC, I think its the first time we can really provide developers with something and say, you can use ours, and you’ll be alright.”

Sony’s been talking to medical professionals about overcoming simulation sickness, Yoshida explains, and wants hardware to be comfortable and usable without adjustment. “The Oculus DK1 has lots of adjustments available, but the Morpheus just works, the optics design. We’ll continue to improve it.” Eventually, the company wants to create guidelines for how old users should be, and how long they should use it for, but it’s not quite there yet. Even Yoshida admits he hasn’t spent extended periods of time in virtual reality, usually keeping his sessions at under ten minutes.

The Oculus DK1 has lots of adjustments available, but the Morpheus just works

Yoshida’s plan for building those guidelines relies heavily on collaboration. “We need to share knowledge,” he explained. “We can’t just make the hardware, it’s the game applications that need to be designed well. We need time for developers to experiment and find the killer application, and at the same time we need to learn how VR applications should be designed.” Providing the Morpheus dev kit to developers, Yoshida says, is the first step.

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