In a move mirroring Valve's foray into VR and Kickstarter project the Oculus Rift, Sony teased their own augmented reality headset via their Japanese YouTube account yesterday.

Bearing noticeable similarities to the Personal 3D Viewer the company released last year, initial translations (thanks to IGN) would indicate that the streamlined device features head-tracking, 360 degree "entertainment" and a new front-mounted camera that presumably supplies an opportunity for the "world of movies and the world of music [to] fly into the real world".

This same translation also goes on to reveal that the headset is still in the development stage, however - it's referred to as an "experiment", with public tests being carried out later this month.

With Google's Project Glass making similar waves and the next Xbox purportedly lining up its own augmented reality glasses (codenamed Fortaleza, according to 'leaked' documents), it doesn't appear too outrageous to suggest that this technology might become the next generation's signature technical leap.
Of course, if that happens to be the case then the question now lies in its real-world viability. Whilst it's certainly a more palatable scheme for the hardcore demographic than motion control (we've all dreamt of virtual reality gaming at some stage or other), the high price of the aforementioned Personal 3D Viewer may indicate that such hardware is destined to be prohibitively expensive. One might suggest that it could be 'stripped down' in order to lower the asking price - a la Kinect - but that subsequently raises concerns of neutered technology. In terms of accuracy, this didn't do Microsoft's sensor any favours beyond those rooted in the commercial realm.

The possibilities are truly exciting in spite of any bubble-bursting logistical concerns, nevertheless. Combined with traditional controllers and (even if many are loathe to hear it) the likes of Kinect mark-2, it's a concept that promises to revolutionise the way we play. A cliche, I know, but a justifiable one regardless. With the ability to interact with worlds, gameplay or characters in a fashion traditional 2D 'screen gaming' simply can't manage - being thrust headfirst into a title's environment or jumping into the 'shoes' of a protagonist to view their surroundings as they would arguably leads to far greater immersion - this is an innovation which core audiences can actually throw their weight behind.

It could also provide the perfect bridge between couch play and motion gaming that developers are struggling to achieve. With the possibility of actively stepping into the experience, this brand of entertainment becomes less humiliating flailing and more a case of tangible interaction with a world that's all around you. From where I'm sitting, this is but another step toward the kind of VR which previously existed only in science fiction.

We're still at an incredibly early stage in this chapter of the medium if it takes off at all, admittedly (although Palmer Luckey's Oculus Kickstarter is fast nearing its $250,000 goal, it's only the first real step into uncharted territory), but the thought of where it might lead is electrifying. If a potential PR nightmare concerning uneducated parents worrying over children's exposure to such tactile endeavours, obviously.

Not that this method is completely without flaws. An unfortunate concern can be found in the issue of comfort. After trying an earlier version of the 3D Viewer at a PlayStation event in 2011, I found it to be an awkwardly heavy device that - despite its technical wizardry - was a touch uncomfortable to wear. Whilst this might well have been negated for the final product (and this new Sony device seems rather lightweight, furthermore) it's a valid and persistent worry that shouldn't be ignored when debating the pros and cons of this technology - especially for fellow souls with glasses.

I'd like to think that we're on the right track for something ground-breaking, though. As a result, I'll be watching the story closely as it unfolds in the coming months. Suddenly, Star Trek's Holodeck is starting to feel that much closer; and, in truth, I can't think of anything that could thrill me more.

We'll have more for you on the subject as and when it becomes available; until then, keep an eye on GamingExcellence for more hot news and opinions.