CES 2016: PlayStation 4 headset virtually absent

One gadget missing from Sony’s parade of products at the International Consumer Electronics Show was also its most anticipated in decades: a virtual reality headset for the PlayStation 4.

Chief executive, Kazuo Hirai, took the wraps off a slew of devices that showcased the Japanese company’s historical expertise in video and audio hardware: from a 4K camcorder and vinyl record player to a lightbulb-speaker.

Conspicuously absent was Sony’s answer to the Oculus Rift, a day before pre-orders for Facebook’s VR-headset began.

Virtual reality is a theme of the annual electronics show, held in Las Vegas this week. HTC Vive, a joint effort between Taiwan-based smartphone maker, HTC Corp. and Half-Life game publisher, Valve, rolled in an 18-wheeler offering demos and promised to unveil a technological breakthrough at the event.

Sony played down its virtual-reality offering with only a handful of demos. Hirai took the stage in Las Vegas, touting digital cameras and the PlayStation 4. The company has said its PlayStation VR goggles will go on sale in the first half of the year and will cost about as much as a PS4 console.

“PlayStation 4 sets a benchmark for our organisation, in terms of collaboration, engineering, creativity, artistry and also experiential design,” he said.

Sony unveiled a 4K handycam and a slimmer Bravia TV model. The company is also launching Ultra, an app that allows users to buy and stream 4K (or ultra-high-definition) movies on its Android TVs. “Two years ago, I said 4K for the price of 2K. Last year, I said 4K for 1K,” Mike Fasulo, president and chief operating officer at Sony Electronics, told the CES crowd.

“This year, I say 4K for everyone. I know it’s weak, but that’s all I have,” he added, drawing laughter.

The company also announced new audio products, including portable speakers and wireless headphones. About seven million VR headsets will be sold by the end of 2016, according to market researcher, IHS Technology. By 2020, the market is expected to reach $2.6bn, with 37m headsets sold.

Sony’s 36m-strong global base of PS4 consoles may give the company an advantage over rival headsets, which require a high-end computer to be run. The company can also leverage two decades of experience working with game studios and has 100 titles in development.

While Hirai never directly mentioned VR, he alluded to Sony’s desire to rise above the crowd. “This is a choice, at Sony, to stand out from the crowd, not simply to fit in,” Hirai said. “This is a choice to make objects of sensation.”

Meanwhile, Samsung has widened its smartwatch collection with two new, premium versions of the Gear S2, one in 18-carat rose gold, the other in platinum.

At the Korean technology giant’s press conference, the firm announced the two new versions, as well as a new hybrid tablet that runs Windows 10. Smartwatches have exploded in popularity since 2013, when Samsung launched their first Galaxy Gear. The current generation Gear S2 was launched last year.

Samsung’s Younghee Lee said: “In 2015, we set a new standard, with the Gear S2, in the smart, wearable category. We broke barriers to introduce one of Samsung’s most progressive wearable devices to date. In 2016, we will continue to raise the bar, so that we can deliver products that our customers want most.” Many smartwatch manufacturers, including Apple, LG, Motorola and Huawei, have made greater attempts to create fashion-driven wearables. Rose gold has been a popular material choice.

The two new watches are joined by a range of new straps and watch faces, for the fashion-conscious devices.

Samsung also announced the Galaxy TabPro S, a tablet that comes with a keyboard — similar to hybrid products, such as the Microsoft Surface and iPad Pro.

As is tradition at CES, Samsung also updated its high-end TV line-up, too, at the top of which is a new, bezel-less, curved SUHD. Bezels refer to the frames that sit around a television and have been reducing in size in recent years.

A series of home appliances, including a new smart fridge and two washing machines, were also confirmed.

The technology manufacturer also confirmed that the Gear S2 would add compatibility for Apple’s iOS “later this year”.

The move would enable iPhone users to connect a Gear S2 with their device, in order to use it.


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