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PlayStation VR

Sony Clarifies What PlayStation VR’s Breakout Box Does

One of the most intriguing extras of the PlayStation VR virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display (HMD) is the small breakout box that can be found on the wire that connects between the device and the PlayStation 4 with which it runs. Since its reveal, there’s been some confusion as to what the box actually does, with some fans speculating that it could help with the ‘reprojection’ system that allows some titles running in 60fps to be reprojected at 120fps. That’s not the case, however, and now Sony Computer Entertainment’s (SCE’s) Richard Marks has clarified what the box actually does do.

PlayStation VR headset

Marks expressed a desire to clear up confusion during his talk on PlayStation VR at the 2016 Vision Summit earlier this month. “That little box? It’s not like doing all the graphics rendering for VR,” he explained. “That’s not what it does. It’s just a little breakout box. But, because we want the best possible image to be in the headset, all that pre-computation of making everything in the right warped way for the optics of the headset is all done on the PlayStation and that’s shipped over to the headset. So the PlayStation does all that heavy work, gets it all ready for the headset.

“Now, if you just wanted to show that on the TV, first of all the TV wouldn’t even accept that signal, and second of all it would be in this warped looking way and that’s not what we really want people to have to look at. So that little box is just kind of undoing some of the stuff that’s already been done just so you can put it on a television set. That’s what it’s there for.”

Not only that, but 3D audio is also processed within the box. “And since that box is already there it has enough horsepower to do the 3D audio part that I mentioned. So there is where the little bit of 3D audio processing is. It’s not little but it’s a lot less than a PS4’s worth of processing power,” Marks concluded.

Fans will hopefully learn much more about PlayStation VR next month when SCE hosts a presentation on the kit on 15th March during the 2016 Game Developers Conference (GDC). Stay tuned to VRFocus for the latest on PlayStation VR.

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  1. I don’t get why they have the ps4 distort the image and then the breakout-box (henceforth referred to as BoB) de-distorts it to mirror it to the TV. That is two distortions (each causing a loss of visual data) and wasted power on the PS4 side that could go towards maintaining a higher frame rate. When the PS4 could send the undistorted image to the BoB, the BoB could send it straight to the TV without distortion, and distort it for the HMD. One less distortion means a higher visual quality for the TV image.

    1. I’d also like to know the technical method behind how it handles rendering the TV image separately from the HMD image (when it’s not being mirrored) how is it fitting 2 1080p images in one signal? Is it just a double-width image or some sort of interlacing/multiplexing thing going on? Inquiring minds want to know.

    2. Any extra processing between the headset after the PS4 wold add latency. You can’t have that with VR. The TV, on the other hand doesn’t matter. So this box can likely crop half the screen and apply an inverted barrel shader so you can see what the player is seeing on the TV as a single image without the lens distortion.

      1. “Any extra processing between the headset after the PS4 wold add latency”

        That latency is already present, and doubled using the method they chose. My method would halve it.

  2. That smells like bullshit, there is no way the ps4 does any of the gpu work at all, they just don’t want to admit that it’s too slow.

    1. “there is no way the ps4 does any of the gpu work at all”

      So you’re suggesting the breakout box has 8 gigs of RAM and is more powerful than PS4?

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