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What This PlayStation Patent Could Mean For The Future Of VR

PlayStation has upped its VR game with the filing of a patent that could change how players interact with the virtual reality medium. An application from Sony Interactive Entertainment was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office on Jan. 28, detailing a new technology which would allow audience participation in VR games.

Here's how it works, in theory: the initial player puts on the VR headset, while one or more spectators use their own devices to interact with the game. The audience can see what the player sees on their own devices, and at certain points would have the option to make choices for the main player.

A diagram on the application provides an example, showing a figure wearing a headset with a group of people on the sofa behind them. It appears that each group member is holding their own devices (perhaps smartphones) and can vote — via a display on a TV — which in-game tool the VR player should use. It's fun to imagine how this mechanic could be applied. The spectators could choose to help out the player by giving them a sword — or they could totally troll them by equipping them with a soup ladle.

This may be an indicator that Sony has big plans for the future regarding PlayStation VR. In the past, virtual reality gaming has mostly been a solo venture, but in recent years, companies have been looking for ways to allow social interaction between VR users. Facebook's Oculus offers a Parties feature which connects VR players with friends online, allowing them participate in voice chat and play games together. PSVR currently offers multiplayer with its PlayRoom and Social Screen features.

The release of the PS5 made things difficult for PSVR users on next-gen consoles. Gamers have to order a specific adapter to use preexisting PSVR headsets on the PS5. However, if Sony is able to move forward with their newest patent, and if the rumors of a new PSVR headset for PS5 become a reality, then PlayStation may just be able to rival the Oculus when it comes to multiplayer VR technology. 

This patent seems to have arrived just as the VR race is heating up even more. Although Facebook has not released any official numbers, CEO Mark Zuckerberg relayed that pre-orders for the Quest 2 "outpaced the original Quest pre-orders by more than 5x." Perhaps VR fans can expect even more technological leaps in the coming days from PlayStation.