When the China-based headset manufacturer Pico Interactive announced they were bringing their six degrees of freedom (6DoF) Pico Neo VR headset and 6DoF controllers to the West, it wasn’t clear what content store they’d be drawing from when they released the headset out of China. As it turns out, the company may beat HTC to the punch by being the first to bring Viveport mobile to the rest of the world—at least that’s the way it appears currently, as HTC hasn’t yet released word on a possible Western release for Vive Focus.

Sitting down with Pico’s VP of Business Development Paul Viglienzone, I was told the headset would be launching globally with the Viveport mobile store sometime in “late spring” following its invite-only business-to-business launch coming in a few weeks.

Unable to speak on behalf of HTC, Viglienzone couldn’t tell us if Pico Neo would be the first out of China to ship with Viveport mobile or not, but it’s certainly the first to announce its intentions to do so—meaning HTC’s mobile app store isn’t going to be beheld to the Chinese market as previously thought.

While the headset primarily serves 6DoF content, it can also technically switch into a ‘3DoF mode’ to play games designed for 3DoF input like those created for Vive Focus, giving it the hypothetical ability to have access to greater amount of content. The headset is said to deliver 70 games at launch, with the eventual addition of WebVR to the headset’s roadmap. It’s unclear if these launch day games will all be 6DoF however.

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Here’s a quick hands-on with the headset:

Cinching the Neo’s halo strap onto my head, the headset itself proved to be both light and comfortable. In the bright lights of the conventional hall, I noticed minimal light bleed seeping in after I cranked the headset onto my noggin, a simple ratchet system, and pulled the display in closer to my face. Incorporating a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor driving dual 3.5 inch LCD displays, each with 1440x 1600 screen resolution, the visual clarity was impressive. Without a scene with stark visual contrast (like white text on a back background), it wasn’t possible to tell just how good its near-circular fresnel lenses were, but I didn’t notice any overly obnoxious god rays to speak of in the brightly-colored demo.

Like Daydream, Gear VR and now Vive Focus, the Pico Neo controller features a trigger and touchpad. A home button sits below the circular trackpad with a tick-tack-shaped select button above. Ergonomically speaking, the controllers aren’t much to write home about though, as both left and right controllers are seemingly identical.

The demo I tried put a ray gun in one hand and a shield in the other, with a number of cutesy dragons firing lasers at your head. I could deflect the oncoming shots from the adorable baddies or dodge them entirely, using the headset’s 6DoF capabilities to its fullest.

While graphically simple, my experience with the headset wasn’t without its hitches unfortunately. Positional tracking was fairly reliable, although it was clear that latency is still an issue at this point. Walking from one side of the room to the other (both physically and virtually), I could feel the headset struggle to keep up as the ground visibly sloshed to follow my steps.

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Motion controller tracking wasn’t comparable with what you’d find on any of the three major VR systems either. There, latency was also a pretty significant issue in maintaining 1:1 parity with my hands’ actual position, although I was reassured the controller latency would see greater polish in the consumer version. Using an ultrasonic solution sourced from Bay Area-based Chirp Microsystems, I had moments when the controllers seemed to follow my hands closely enough to be considered usable, but in its current state I couldn’t imagine using the controllers for fine object interaction like you would on any PC/console-based VR headset.

To track the controllers, which emit inaudible noise, the headset features three ultrasonic receivers embedded within; a small hole on either side of the the headset and a single in the top center. I was told the system’s ultrasonics were computationally cheaper than optical tracking like you might find in Windows ‘Mixed Reality’ VR headsets or more aptly Oculus’ Project Santa Cruz.

At Pico Neo’s $750 price tag and still somewhat squishy-feeling 6DoF-everything, it’s uncertain where the headset will land with consumers when it finally hits this spring. You can bet we’ll be following along though.

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We have feet on the ground at CES this year, so check back for more hands-on, previews and all things virtual and augmented.

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  • Sponge Bob

    So the controllers suck even relative to PSVR ?

  • Sponge Bob

    Triad Semiconductor might have better controllers

    https://ces18.mapyourshow.com/7_0/exhibitor/exhibitor-details.cfm?ExhID=T0006473

    Try those

  • Lucidfeuer

    Wasn’t that supposed to be 400$? There goes my plan.

    • Sponge Bob

      400$ for standalone inside-out 6DFof headset tracking
      plus 6Dof controllers ?

      Nah

      more like 700$

  • Nelson Tutorials

    750$!!? Good Luck.

    Oculus Go (199$) for me.

    • Sponge Bob

      with 3DoF useless controller – basically just a fancy pointer

      but these are nearly useless too according to review

      actual latency figures pls ? before sensor merge algos

      • Nelson Tutorials

        You pay for what you are getting for. I just want Oculus Go for movies, and 360videos and VR media, not for games or big experiences. Oculus Go is very affordable and confortable to wear..using it on any place you want. i better pay less now for Oculus Go and wait more 2years to invest on the big VR headsets that will come standalone with 4K resolution and 6DOF.

    • WyrdestGeek

      I’m willing to pay a fair amount more for 6dof, but not if it’s going to be “squishy”.

    • G-man

      yeah, an older mobile soc in a headset with no tracking vs a snapdragon 835 with inside out tracking and controller tracking.

      the go is good for the price, but its not really a full vr capable headset like this could be.

      • Nelson Tutorials

        Why spend 750$ for VR now? The expensive VR headset you buy now will be overtaked in the next year or two by a better one, so its better spend now only 200$ to experience a decent and capable VR experience and wait at least two more years to invest big on VR. VR is growing fast so in my opinion its better save money now to invest big in the future for a fully imersive VR with 4K resolution, VR gloves and other cool stuff.

        • G-man

          And why buy the 750 experience in a few years. When you can then buy the 200 experience in a few years…. If you dont want to spend 750 on vr then dont. Meanwhile other people might want to do that now and not have to wait years.

  • Thanks for the informative review