Sony engineer Chris Norden expressed frustration that the media does not understand the extra processing box that comes packed with the upcoming PlayStation VR headset. So he took the time during a presentation today to finally explain it to us.

The PlayStation VR’s processing unit (PU) is not an extra GPU or CPU, and developers cannot access it directly to improve their games. Norden also explicitly said it is not an “expansion pack.” Put simply, the extra box is not going to make non-VR PlayStation 4 games look better. This add-on frees up resources on the PS4 so that it can handle the heavy lifting of rendering at least 60 frames per second — which Sony is making a requirement before it will certify a game for its $400 PSVR peripheral. And Norden confirmed that the processing unit is handling a bunch of very specific tasks so that the PS4 doesn’t have to.

PlayStation VR handles these specific tasks.

Above: PlayStation VR handles these specific tasks.

Image Credit: Jeffrey Grubb/GamesBeat

So while the PU is not a GPU or a CPU, it is doing some calculations on its own. It handles the following PSVR elements:

  • 3D audio processing
  • Handles the “cinematic mode” that enables you to play standard PS4 games in a virtual theater.
  • Outputs the social screen so people can see what you’re playing in VR.

That’s it. This is not a 4MB expansion pack that makes your Nintendo 64 powerful enough to play Perfect Dark. Instead, it’s primarily a breakout box that enables your PS4 to output multiple video feeds without dragging down its performance.

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