A second screen on the front of PSVR 2? Why not?

While using a virtual reality headset can be immersive for the player, it can be a bit of an isolating experience for those sitting around watching you. A newly-uncovered patent shows Sony is trying to figure out how to solve this socially-awkward situation in time for the PSVR 2 release.

The patent (first spotted by VR Focus and deftly named "Display screen front panel of HMD for viewing by users viewing the HMD player") describes how an additional external, front-mounted display could help those watching a VR player understand what the headset wearer was seeing and feeling.

Patents for headmounted displays from Sony

(Image credit: SIE)

That first one is pretty straightforward – with eye-tracking enabled, the outer screen would mirror what the headset wearer is looking at in-game, letting those nearby have a glimpse into their virtual world.

Patents for headmounted displays from Sony

(Image credit: SIE)

It’s the second one that’s a bit weirder – the second screen would be used to estimate what’s happening on a wearer’s face under the headset, using a previously-captured image to mimic expressions that are then shown on the external screen.

According to the patent, this would use "a first image of a user including the user’s facial features captured by an external camera when the user is not wearing a head mounted display (HMD). A second image capturing a portion of the facial features of the user when the user is wearing the HMD is received. An image overlay data is generated by mapping contours of facial features captured in the second image with contours of corresponding facial features captured in the first image."

Social smoothing

While virtual reality has become much better for integrating social experiences, whether through multiplayer or second screen gameplay, there’s still a disconnect between the player and those around them. A second screen could work to alleviate this issue, particularly when it comes to reading the wearer’s emotions.

In fact, it’s a similar solution to what Facebook has been testing for upcoming Oculus Quest headsets, with the company recently showing off a prototype for a headset able to display the user’s eyes on a front mounted screen.

Keep in mind that the PSVR 2 is said to be tethered to the PS5 console via a USB-C connection, so that second screen wouldn’t add a stress on any mobile battery (though would be a strain on the headset’s processing power). 

However, we’re less convinced by the idea of seeing what a wearer is seeing within VR on an external, head-mounted display. For that to be effective, you’d have to be staring at the front of the user’s head at all times, and considering a VR is often a 360-degree experience, that’s hardly practical. The original PlayStation VR’s solution of mirroring action on a connected TV (or the Oculus Quest’s wireless Chromecast connection to mobile devices) seems much more effective.

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