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Sony has sold nearly 1 million PlayStation VR headsets

Ever since PlayStation VR, speculation has been rampant: is console-based virtual reality here to stay, or will it die an early death? Apparently, its near-term future is secure. Sony’s Andrew House tells the New York Times that the company had sold 915,000 PSVR headsets as of February 19th, just over four months after its October 13th debut. That doesn’t sound like much for a company that has sold tens of millions of PlayStation 4s, but it’s well ahead of expectations — Sony had hoped to reach the 1 million mark by mid-April. Sales might have been better still if the company hadn’t been purposefully cautious with production, leading to shortages centered primarily in its home turf of Japan.

Play time in VR is also going up, House adds. While many PSVR experiences are short, Resident Evil 7‘s support for VR throughout the entire game has doubled the average play length. In other words, it’s a technology that may be hitting its stride as developers learn to craft more than tech demos and mini games.

It’s not certain how well that stands in comparison to PC-based VR headsets. However, SuperData Research estimates that there were 243,000 Oculus Rift units sold through the end of 2016, and 420,000 HTC Vive units. If the real figures are reasonably close, that makes Sony the leading VR maker on the planet despite having a smaller amount of time to build its user base.

A sales victory wouldn’t exactly be surprising. PSVR requires a much smaller investment than its rivals — even if you splurge on a PS4 Pro and a full VR bundle, you’re spending far less than it takes to get a high-end PC VR headset and a computer powerful enough to handle it. And that’s not including the physical space you need for room-scale VR experiences with PCs. Combine that with a healthy game library and console VR is likely to remain the front-runner for a while, at least until prices for headsets and VR-worthy PCs drop to the point where they’re no longer luxuries.

Source: New York Times

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Existing EV batteries could be recharged five times faster

Lithium-ion batteries have massively improved in the last half-decade, but there are still issues. The biggest, especially for EVs, is that charging takes too long to make them as useful as regular cars for highway driving. Researchers from the University of Warwick (WMG) have discovered that we may not need to be so patient, though. They developed a new type of sensor that measures internal battery temperatures and discovered that we can probably recharge them up to five times quicker without overheating problems.

Overcharging a lithium-ion battery anode can lead to lithium buildup, which can break through a battery's separator, create a short-circuit and cause catastrophic failure. That can cause the electrolyte to emit gases and literally blow up the battery, so manufacturers impose strict charging power limits to prevent it.

Those limits are based on hard-to-measure internal temperatures, however, which is where the WMG probe comes in. It's a fiber optic sensor, protected by a chemical layer that can be directly inserted into a lithium-ion cell to give highly precise thermal measurements without affecting its performance.

The team tested the sensor on standard 18650 li-ion cells, used in Tesla's Model S and X, among other EVs. They discovered that they can be charged five times faster than previously thought without damage. Such speeds would reduce battery life, but if used judiciously, the impact would be minimized, said lead researcher Dr. Tazdin Amietszajew.

Faster charging as always comes at the expense of overall battery life but many consumers would welcome the ability to charge a vehicle battery quickly when short journey times are required and then to switch to standard charge periods at other times.

There's still some work to do. While the research showed the li-ion cells can support higher temperatures, EVs and charging systems would have to have "precisely tuned profiles/limits" to prevent problems. It's also not clear how battery makers would install the sensors in the cells.

Nevertheless, it shows a lot of promise for much faster charging speeds in the near future. Even if battery capacities stayed the same, charging in 5 minutes instead of 25 could flip a lot of drivers over to the green side.

Via: Clean Technica

Source: University of Warwick