Virtual reality today consists of one person experiencing an environment through a VR headset with nobody else really able to interact with it directly. But, Sony is looking to change that by adding another dynamic VR screen.
As Siliconera reports, Sony filed a patent back in April that was published for all to see this month. It’s entitled “Second Screen Virtual Window Into VR Environment” and describes a way of letting other people interact with a VR experience without the need to wear a headset.
This is a new feature to allow virtual reality to more easily become a group event or an experience that can be shared with others remotely.
Sony describes the system whereby a video feed of the VR environment is displayed on a second screen such as a smartphone or tablet. It’s not a static feed, though, with the viewer able to look around the environment as well as experiencing it from the headset wearer’s perspective.
The view this second person has will be changed based on their head movements and distance from the screen they are looking at, so it will rely on having access to the camera on that device to track such movement. While the view is still tied to the headset wearer, the viewer’s head rotation and general movement will be able to turn the camera in the VR environment. Bringing the screen closer to your face or moving it further away will control zoom. It will also be possible to observe the headset wearer’s character in the environment.
Sony also sees this second window interaction being possible over the internet, opening the way for virtual reality streaming to get much more interesting. And if the patent becomes reality, I can see it having an impact on games, too. If other people can look around the virtual environment, they could communicate with the headset wearer and act as teammates.
For example, warning of danger from behind or advising them where to look for an item.
There’s nothing to stop this same system remaining interactive after it has happened. Imagine a pre-recorded VR stream being uploaded to YouTube or Twitch, but viewing it on a handheld device retains the ability to look around the environment.
For now, the patent hasn’t been approved, but it does offer us a glimpse of how virtual reality could be expanded to make it a more interactive experience. This could also end up being a feature Sony uses to help sell a PSVR 2 headset in the future, possibly alongside the PlayStation 5 in a couple of years.