This week at CES 2020, Pico quietly revealed a prototype headset which its calling the Pico VR Glasses. This phone-tethered 3DOF ‘VR viewer’ was surprisingly complete, offering a decent resolution and field of view, focus adjustment, and motion controller in a compact form-factor that’s light enough to stay on your head.

When Pico made its CES announcements earlier this week, the company talked about its new Neo 2 standalone VR headset, a Quest-like device targeting enterprise customers. But when we went to the company’s booth on the show floor, we saw a curious device sitting next to their Neo headsets. The so called Pico VR Glasses is a prototype small form-factor headset that’s designed as a ‘VR viewer’ of sorts—a lightweight, 3DOF headset designed to tether to Android phones for casual VR experiences.

Especially considering that it’s still a prototype, it’s the most impressive ‘VR viewer’ headset I’ve seen yet, being several steps ahead in completeness over others, including a similar VR viewer that Panasonic revealed this week.

Pico VR Glasses at CES 2020

Photo by Road to VR

Pico’s VR Glasses prototype employ a 90Hz, 1,600 × 1,600 LCD display in each eye, 3DOF headtracking via an on-board IMU, and a 3DOF motion controller. Each eye has a 0-800 diopter adjustment for focus, and while the provided spec sheet says “51mm–75mm IPD,” I saw no physical IPD adjustment on the prototype (so this may have referred to a software adjustment only).

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Photo by Road to VR

At just 120 grams (excluding the arms of the goggles), the VR Glasses actually stayed on my face with no issue, unlike a handful of other viewers I’ve seen which are too front-heavy that they need to be held up or augmented with some additional strap.

In my hands-on with the headset, the viewer was plugged into an Android smartphone and ran a Daydream-like interface from which I could launch games and media. I was impressed to find a reasonably large FOV given the compact form-factor, and especially one which filled out the entire lens rather than being cropped by the edge of the display. This is known as a ‘lens limited’ field of view, which tends to feel much more natural than a ‘display-limited’ field of view which shows a hard edge.

Pico claims a 90 degree field of view on the VR Glasses, and while that sounds a bit aggressive—at least against the woefully undefined measurements touted by other headset makers—it wasn’t that far off from what you’d expect in an Oculus Quest or Rift. For the casual VR use-case (seated, 3DOF), it felt perfectly viable.

Photo by Road to VR

There was a small but notable latency to the headtracking and misalignment of the lenses which would need to be sorted out before this became a real product. Considering the headset’s ‘prototype’ designation, I won’t make a stink about for now; near as I can tell, it’s a lack of final tuning rather than a fundamental issue.

The Secret to Small

Photo by Road to VR

What makes the Pico VR Glasses so small compared to headsets like Rift or Vive? The biggest factor is the headset’s novel ‘pancake’ lenses, which Pico says is of their own design.

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Most consumer headsets today use a single, simple lens. In order to correctly focus the light from the display onto your eye, the display must be at a certain distance from the lens. For simple lens designs, it’s difficult to make the distance from the display to the lens smaller than what we see in headsets like Rift and Vive, which is why so many of today’s headsets feel like boxes on your face.

Photo by Road to VR

The pancake lens approach condenses the length of the optical path by ‘folding’ it back on itself through the use of polarized light and multiple lens elements. This approach has various tradeoffs, but allows the display to be much closer to the lens compared to the simple, single lenses found in most consumer headsets today.

Image courtesy Oculus

Beyond using Pancake lenses, Pico’s VR Glasses also off-board most of the other components—the headset has an IMU for tracking, but it relies on a phone for compute and power. Further still, the headset lacks any sensors for inside-out head, controller, or hand-tracking… which brings me to my next thought.

We’re Past 3DOF, Even for Casual VR

Photo by Road to VR

As the prototype exists today, the Pico VR Glasses would have been a great Daydream-like headset back in, say, 2017. But VR has evolved much since then, and 3DOF tracking just feels like a huge step back. Even for casual, seated VR experiences, it’s important for comfort and immersion to be able to track the movements of the user shifting in their seat—not to mention how much it limits the kind of experiences the headset can support.

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For the VR Glasses to be a truly viable product in 2020 or beyond, Pico will need to figure out how to get some cameras on board to support 6DOF tracking on both head and hands (doing 6DOF head and only 3DOF hands is a mistake made clear by Lenovo’s Mirage Solo). Inside-out tracking would also open the door to a pass-through feature (which is increasingly a key convenience in a VR headset), and controller-less hand-tracking which would probably be a great fit for VR Glasses considering the likely focus on causal, phone-based experiences.

This is no easy feat though, especially considering the extra power and compute requirements that such tracking would add, and the need to send that much more data back and forth between the phone and headset.

Once the right components come into place, Pico may have the chops to pull this off though, considering the company is one of just a handful so far to have built a solid standalone 6DOF headset, it’s upcoming Pico Neo 2.

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  • impurekind

    Well, the cool thing is that this means we’ll almost certainly be seeing these kinds of pancake lenses in the next Quest, which should help reduce its size or at least keep it the same size while making it even more capable.

    • Daemonic

      I don’t this means that we’ll be seeing “these kinds of pancake lenses” in the next Quest at all. This article has nothing to do with Quest. Reading further would illustrate that pancake lenses are not an ideal technology in their current form. Making definitive assumptions about next-gen Quest tech from this article about a basic 3DOF prototype headset by a completely different company is probably a bit off.

      • Ad

        People are obsessed with the quest and for some reason think the quest will always have the newest and best technology when it doesn’t even right now.

        • impurekind

          Where it makes sense to do so, such as with lenses that allow for much smaller and lighter form factors then, yes, I do expect the Quest series of headsets to start getting that kind of thing. That’s really just common sense–oh, and the fact Michael Abrash mentioned they were working on such stuff at Oculus.

          • Ad

            Abrash just wants to feel like Steve Jobs, his mentioning that was meaningless, valve invented AR in 2012 but didn’t finish or release it so it didn’t matter. The quest is a cheap headset so it will be a long time, maybe after the quest line dies.

          • impurekind

            Clearly you don’t quite get how intelligent and forward thinking a guy like Abrash is. And he mentioning it is not meaningless because it’s obvious every bit of tech Oculus and Abrash has mentioned previously has either come to one of its headsets or is being worked on specifically to come to one of its future headsets. This isn’t just some marketing tool sprouting hyperbole.

          • Ad

            My point is that at the price point their target and realistic constraints, they will not be putting everything you saw into a consumer headset. There is no evidence half dome actually works, works well, or could be made for a consumer price point. The idea that he invented a cheap small xtal is silly. He is smart but smart doesn’t mean magic, and valve and apple haven’t shown us their hand so we don’t know what they have to challenge Facebook.

          • Rogue Transfer

            No, most of the research shown has come with the caveat that the tech may not come in a future headset, but is only to explore as feature prototypes.

            That’s why they showed off two different approaches to varifocal & multifocal at the same presentation – and that their engineers said that the Half Dome prototype’s vari-focal approach wasn’t good enough, they had to do better.

            Watch the full Facebook Research Labs talks available on Youtube to find out, not just the clipped presentation ones from OC6.

      • impurekind

        Reading further would tell you that these are exactly the kinds of lenses Michael Abrash was talking about in terms of the future of VR headsets at Facebook during a couple of his previous Oculus talks. So, yeah, unless something dramatically changes in the near future, there’s a high likelihood we will be seeing lenses something like this in the next Quest or thereabouts.

    • Ad

      The quest is cheap and needs higher contrast than this can give so that seems doubtful. People are getting way too into the quest as the future of everything. More likely is that Samsung or someone else starts from scratch with better tech and makes a better product targeting a higher price bracket than oculus’s cheap and abundant quests. Oculus can’t even add the XR2 chip without restarting because the cooling set up are so important.

  • Uncle Right

    W|hat is needed is Samsung with its 200 degree CURVED oled panel. This here still crap with small FOV and not transparent. This is the future:
    https://www.patentlymobile.com/2019/01/samsung-invents-next-gen-gear-vr-headset-that-provides-a-curved-display-for-a-more-natural-field-of-view-and-more.html

    • Mike Porter

      For the second time, panels curved on one axis will help nobody

      • Sofian

        Why is that?

        • Mike Porter

          I replied to Uncle Right here about a month ago explaining why it won’t help but he doesn’t seem to give a shit and keeps shreading misinformation.

          Here’s a repost:

          Curved OLEDs are sadly not the solution. The optics wouldn’t be much different and not much smaller than Pimax 8K. It would only help with better field curvature and peripheral distortion but only in the X axis.

          For a perfect field curvature (almost perfect sweet spot) we will need dsiplays curved in both X and Y axis which is not possible by bending them (imaging trying to make a dome from a piece of paper compared to making a cylinder). Even then, the size wouldn’t be much different from current Pimax 8K. The diagrams from the patents show a meniscus lens as the eyepiece. A meniscus lens provides less magnification than a convex lens, meaning the display either needs to be farther or larger than the lens. This can be slightly changed by having a convex Fresnel surface on the side of the lens facing the display and a meniscus (concave actually) lens surface facing the eye, but that’s also worse than a convex-Fresnel lenses we currently use when it comes to magnification, distortion and field curvature. In the end you will end up with slightly smaller eyepieces but still same size screens so the HMD size won’t change much. Also people with glasses won’t have a great time with meniscus surfaces at the same eye relief. I’ve talked about this alot with an optical engineer, curved OLEDs seem interesting at first but from an engineering point of view they don’t seem to solve anything important such as field of view at a smaller form factor. Maybe Samsung will think of something we’ve missed but until then this is just a hoarded patent that we shouldn’t get excited about.

          You need a stretchable, not only flexible (bendable) material to bend in both axis at the same time. This is just physics. Or the display must be accurately assembled as a 3d surface to begin with which nobody can currently do.

          • Sofian

            Do you know if any attempt has been made to instead of relying on a display panel, project the image on a surface? That would solve the double curved surface problem.

          • Mike Porter

            Projection screens diffuse the light at a nearly 180 degree angle, while in a VR headset the eyepiece captures only ~20-30 degrees. Too much light will be lost with projection screens, also stray light will be generated and the screen will have poor contrast due to back scattering of light from your face and lens. This is an issue with any video projection screens. Still maybe possible.

            Retro-reflective projection screens are very diffraction limited and won’t work if you have an lens before your eyes since the rays will retro-reflect towards a small spot the size of your pupil rather the size of VR lens.

          • cirby

            There are specialty projection surface materials that can be “tuned” to high-efficiency directed reflection, but I’ve never seen one with a fine enough “dot pitch” to work in this application.

          • Mike Porter

            Those are diffraction-limited for the small size screens we need in VR (40-68mm high). I asked few firms to do this for a 5 digit production cost but they refused for that reason.

            I don’t know much about the science but that’s what I was told.

          • Andrew Jakobs

            There are already projects using DLP-chips to direct the image directly into the eyes, which makes it perfect as it doesn’t require extra lenses and it would work for everybody..

          • Mike Porter

            I’m well aware of those technologies and how they work internally. None can produce high FOVs. Feel free to ask about specific headsets.

          • mfx

            So you think a thin headset like this one with a 180 degree FOV will never exist ?

          • Mike Porter

            Well talking about “pancake lenses” specifically I’m not optimistic from what I’ve seen and read so far.

            I’ll keep it simple, no talk about exactly how curved polarizers and waveplates work. Just think of the system as merely consisting of mirrors that can be switched to either reflect or transmit the light each time the light interacts with them and can have the light one time bounce from them but reflect on the second pass. Now check the diagram by Oculus again and the folding light beams will make more sense:

            https://roadtovrlive-5ea0.kxcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/michael-abrash-oc5-keynote-presentation-2.jpg

            There are two curved “mirrors” in the above diagram on the right side. The image from the display on the right goes through the bigger mirror , reflects from the smaller one, the second time reflects rather than goes through the larger mirror and for the second time for the smaller mirror passes through it rather than reflecting. So no lenses are actually involved since there is no refraction of light happening, only reflection. This is good since reflections produce zero chromatic aberration but at the same time this is why the FOV can’t be scaled up without making the polarizers (“mirrors”) too big. Check the Oculus diagram again. Since unlike with lenses these “mirrors” don’t bend light, the second larger mirror which has a distance from the smaller one must be so big as to cover the same FOV area as the smaller one from your eye’s view. Draw a straight line from the eye to the edge of the smaller mirror, the continue it until it reaches the larger mirror. Now redraw the line to assume a wider FOV and you’ll see how the large mirror gets too large real quick.

            For a small ~90 degree FOV this isn’t noticeable since the display panel is already larger than the lenses in ordinary VR headsets. But as you scale these “mirrors” up to cover more FOV, the bigger one gets progressively bigger than the display panel since you “see” it through the smaller mirror since the smaller mirror does not bend light coming from the bigger mirror. This is the primary reason why AR “birdbath” optics can’t produce wide FOVs without getting too big (think Project North Star) even though there a single “mirror” is involved.

            But there’s more issues: these “mirrors” are actually things called “reflective polarizers” with things called “waveplates” between them which are what change the state of the light as it passes through them which is what allows the light beams to reflect or transmit from these “mirrors” the first time but then transmit or reflect the second time instead. Neither of these optical components change the state of the light going through them 100% correctly, so some “unused” light is accumulated which degrades contrast and black level.

            Finally, since a polarizer is involved a non-polarized light source such as LED display panel loses 50% of its light from the get-go. I think this is less of an issue but worth mentioning.

            I’d like to mention that billions have already been poured for decades into improving polarizers and waveplates as they are used in many professional equipment such as cameras and video projectors. It’s not like Facebook has just discovered the exisstence of waveplates and reflective polarizers and will improve them rapidly while Canon, Nikon and Sony have failed.

            I checked the research papers on this months ago so I may be forgetting something

          • mfx

            Thanks Mike for your input.
            Maybe pancake lens combined with refractive lenses will be the way to go to fold the light path of bigger FOVs into a smaller form factor.
            For now it looks like VR companies are not keen to put efforts into good quality optics however, heavily using crappy Fresnel lenses instead of Nikon/Canon/Zeiss… quality level techs.
            This would be totally unacceptable in a camera, why would it be for our VR headset sold at the same price ?
            I think the issues are also coming from VR companies trying to lower the price of their headsets by using low cost optics.

          • cirby

            The problem with Nikon-level lensing is mostly thickness and weight. For a wide-aperture (at least an inch across at the eye side, which means an inch and a half of glass diameter a least), you’re looking at a fair amount of glass.

            That ends up as weight, and the biggest complaint the VR companies pay attention to is “it’s heavy and uncomfortable.” So they go with a thin Fresnel lens they can mold out of acrylic.

          • Mike Porter

            You don’t need to go with Fresnel to use acrylic. Sony PSVR uses aspheric acrylic and it isn’t much heavier.

          • Bob

            I’m not an expert on the topic but what do you suggest is the best route to achieve brilliant contrast, compact form factor and extremely wide field of view?

            And do you have any hopes for Facebook Technologies?

          • Mike Porter

            I am not very hopeful about Facebook Technologies. It’s not about hating Facebook and their ethical choices regarding our privacy and data. It’s just based on my observation that Facebook is slowly trying to turn from VR to AR in the long-term while I see AR optics not getting anywhere and from immersive (high FOV, high resolution, high processing requirements, primarily gaming and 3d simulations) VR to comfortable social VR (low FOV, “medium” resolution, low processing requirements, ease of use, telepresence and social networking use) in the short term. From the Go and Quest to their latest prototypes to Zucc’s posts I see this becoming more and more apparent. So most of the features we want to see will probably not be introduced by Facebook because it doesn’t serve their end goal and the features we do see will be for making VR more comfortable for telepresence and social networking use cases. There will be much money spent on research but to serve the latter use case.
            It’s true that Facebook bought some game firms and inests in gaming right now but I think it’s just a means to get more people on their closed platform at this stage where VR is still mostly about gamingand then slowly make the transition to a more mainstream platform that doesn’t serve the best interests of gaming anymore.

            I work with optical engineers but I’m not an engineer myself. I can’t tell you which tech will be the best by most of its specifications. All I can say is I think just using better ordinary displays, microdisplays, pancake lenses and lightfields is probably not going to be the future for various reasons (low manufacturng yields, production cost, low performance, very high processing requirements) and instead something similar to Varjo’s engineering tricks is going to be the next big thing.
            There are some clever ideas and inventions I can think of which may just get us there in few years or less which are in design and prototyping phases right now but I’m bound by NDAs and trade secret laws to talk about them.

            Sorry if this is not the answer you wanted.

          • waltew

            How about the fresnels in Star VR One? This is what RTVR said about them a year ago+:

            From my hands-on time with the headset, StarVR has done a great job of achieving optical comfort. The field of view feels immensely wide, reaching to the ends of your horizontal peripheral vision, without introducing eye-strain or edge distortions that are overtly distracting. The projection of the virtual world feels correct in a way that leaves the user free to soak in the added immersion that comes with such a wide field of view. Getting all of this right is key to Presence—that uniquely deep state of immersion.

            They seem to have mastered the edge distortions Pimax headsets are apparently suffering from. But how about other artifacts?

            Would this be good enough for the immediate future if it was way cheaper?

          • Mike Porter

            To be clear I’m not saying Fresnels are that bad, I’m just saying they are not much of an advantage for 110 degree FOV compared to Aspherics.
            Even the wide angle XTAL uses aspheric lenses, (mostly) flat on the side facing the eye and the image quality seems fine:
            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/63fa4f57f41952a6dad5a882853f9c139074b63d7fe9db068fa488df3123c9be.jpg

            What i can give Fresnel lenses credit for is they need less distance from lens to screen as the FOV and screen becomes wider and the weight difference at wider FOVs becomes more noticeable. While I don’t own an XTAL to disassemble and inspect it I have a 3d printed and polished aspheric lens similar to XTAL’s that weighs 40 grams. Pimax8K’s lenses in comparison are just 15.7 grams. That’s around 49 grams weight difference per headset. Still not sure if it’s significant enough.

            If you’ll want to go with two-element aspherics though to reduce chromatic aberration, even less field curvature then aspherics in a wide FOV headset will probably be impractical due to headset dimensons. Maybe this is why Fresnels were adopted, to get people used to its artifacts before the wide FOV headsets came out. I can only guess here.

          • cirby

            I think the Fresnel thing right now is “everyone’s doing it” coupled with “it’s really cheap,” for the most part.

          • Mike Porter

            I think it’s mostly the former, everyone’s doing it. It’s a fact that Fresnels weigh less but I’m not sure 10-20 grams is good enough of a difference for a 300-600 gram device to justify the artifacts. Probably when Oculus and Vive started using Fresnels Oculus didn’t still have an idea to add more electronics and heatpipes to the front of the headset in the future which add much more weight than a cm thick Acrylic plastic.
            However with double element aspherics used for better clarity (much lower chromatic aberration, field curvature, perspective distortion) the weight and thickness differences become more apparent.

            From my experience with mechanical engineers good Fresnels are actually not easy to manufacture, the Fresnel rings are pretty sharp for quick and easy yet accurate injection molding. But in the project I was involved we never went past the design phase of the lenses and didn’t actually prototype and manufacture the lenses so the info I have is just what the engineers have told me.

          • guest

            Yes, most of the high-end HUDs have done this for decades. Panasonic even had a cheaper prototype in the late 80’s or early 90’s. Its sad they now jerking around with dual lenses that some lucky guy made popular again in the 2000’s. The only way to get a full FOV is to project it on a uniform surface and ditch the stereo-vision. Its well worth the tradeoff.

          • Mike Porter

            HUDS != HMDs. Without stereo vision all the wow factor goes away and you are left with a wide screen.

          • guest

            Put a dark towel over a HUD and its a HMD with a FOV over 180 degrees. Try one someday! You can see the horizon riight to the bridge of your nose.

          • MikePorter

            If only it were that easy. The technology in HUD is basically the “birdbath optics” as it is called in AR. Curved half-mirrors or reflective polarizers acting as ray collimators offer very narrow FOV unless you make them ridiculously big. And again, HUD is not stereoscopic which is almost the whole point with VR optics.

          • cataflic

            Optics are very challenging…

          • Mike Porter

            sadly yup

          • Ad

            When people start buying headsets in large numbers for a thousand dollars then we’ll see the miracles happen like with folding phones. For now people should just as for comfortable headsets which has a lot more to do with build, material, and weight than the form factor itself. The quest gets more comfortable with a counter weight, which is literally making it bigger and heavier.

          • Mike Porter

            miracles don’t happen in optics, only engineering ideas

          • cirby

            You could – in theory – create a rear projection surface for microprojectors, but the overall depth of the front of the headset would increase a bit. Maybe a lens with a concave spherical-profile frosted back side to project on, with intermediate lenses to let someone focus that close?

            Light dropoff at the edges could be a problem, but if you have a bright enough projection source, you just tune the center pixels down a bit.

            The microprojectors themselves might not be that much of a problem: a contact-coupled or close-coupled lens would be pretty efficient, and projecting onto a curved screen takes a lot of warping out of the lens set.

            Basically, think of cell phone camera lenses, which are incredibly compact and very efficient for their size.

          • Mike Porter

            I’ve actually tried that. All the materials are still somewhere in my office.

            Every rear-projection material under the sun I’ve tested from frosted glass and opal to holographic diffuser were too thick for the small pixel pitches, had a visible texture to them when looked at with a magnifying lens, scatters light too much for good contrast or weren’t opaque enough and showed a visible halo where the projection lens was behind the screen.
            With a 100% or more offset projection lens at a distance the texture and scattering issues and contrast issue aren’t much of an issue but for a near-eye display with VR lenses it’s too apparent.

            For example frosted glass from Edmund Optics or from old cameras have an apparent grainy texture to them through VR lenses and when a very dim ~1 lumen projection beam shines at them from behind they “glow” white and the contrast isn’t great at all and you see a halo where the projection lens aperture is.

            Another issue I found with rear-projection screens when I was prototyping such a system was the amount of thickness it adds to the HMD, you have a VR-lens-to-screen distance of at least 25mm and then at least as much from behind no matter how you fold the projection lenses. To do short throw projection on the screen your projection lenses will be too large to be practical (>25mm wide on the final lens element) which has to do with the size of the 0.3” HD microdisplay which have reached their diffraction limit to get any smaller.

          • cirby

            Until someone figures out a way to make inexpensive spherical-profile LED panels, we’re going to be stuck with a lot of odd optical compromises.

          • Mike Porter

            Spherical profile screens will address field curvature problem only, not other things like significant reduction in form factor and chriomatic aberration.The curvature can also be compensated by the curvature of the eyepiece lenses instead, to a degree.
            I don’t think there’s enough reason to put money into manufacturing them, 3d manufacturing of electronic components is much more expnsive I’d imagine.

          • cirby

            You need to keep in mind that we’re not just talking about pure mathematical planes – we’re talking about real-world video screens. Using a flat plane with pixels on it means that the pixels at the center subtend a much smaller angle than the ones at the edges, especially with very wide fields of view.

            By using a spherical screen, not only do you make each pixel cover the same visual area, you make focusing easier because the distance from pupil to pixel remains roughly the same.

          • Mike Porter

            Sorry I don’t think I understand.

            If in your first paragraph you’re referring to the angle of the light cones from each LED subpixel relative to the lens (not the pupil),then I think the issue with flat displays here is only subtle vignetting that nobody notices?
            Are you suggesting that a curved LED display not only be manufactured by having the pixels on a 3d surface but also each subpixel specifically angled as well? I know very little here to know if that’s manufacturable today.

            In your second paragraph I think you meant to say distance from pixel to eyepiece rather than pixel to pupil?

          • cirby

            The problem is that if you don’t do something clever with lensing, the vignetting isn’t so subtle for a flat screen.

            With a wide-coverage screen, the closer you get to the edge, the more angle you’re dealing with – and that makes the pixels further out further away (for short throws like VR headsets, that could be as much as 50% more distance).

            With short depths of field (which you have with these wide-aperture lenses in headsets), you have focus problems due to depth of field, view angle issues (which causes the edges to drop in brightness), and geometry problems (called “pincushion” in projection). These are mostly addressed in current headsets through software warping, but you still lose image quality, at least to a small degree.

            If you have a spherical display, the angle issue goes away in several respects – and it could have some good returns in graphics card algorithms, especially with raytracing like the RTX.

            I specifically meant distance from pixel to pupil, not eyepiece. It does matter.

          • Mike Porter

            I own a Pimax 8K, another one which I’ve destroyed for research purposes. I don’t know what vignetting you’re describing honestly. The OLED panel pixel cones are very wide, the cones of the middle pixels end up being cut on the edges while the corner pixels have one side of the cone cut. It’s not like middle pixels are all 100% collected by the lens and edges only <50%. And I don't think our vision is very sensitive to luminance difference across a wide field of view.

            I'm also not sure how a curved screen helps with the pincushion distortion of the lenses, a varible-pixel-density curved display maybe.

            FIeld curvature will be fixed, sure.

          • cirby

            You might not notice the vignetting, but it’s there. That’s just physics and observation. In the Pimax, it’s mostly covered by the lens distortion at the edges.

            You don’t notice pincushion distortion because of software and lens designs that already adjust for it. That’s why curved screens can allow for simpler lenses (and lower processing burden).

          • Mike Porter

            I didn’t say I don’t notice pincushion distortion, I saif I don’t understand how curved screens will help with pincushion distortion of lenses.

            As for vignetting, if the human eye doesn’t notice it, it isn’t an issue then.
            I also don’t understand how lens distortion can cover up vignetting. Vignetting doesn’t need good clarity to be noticeable. I have more than Pimax lenses, I have some of the shelf aspheric-profileFL40,FL50 Fresnel lenses that cover as much FOV as PImax and don’t notice vignetting with any of them.

          • benz145

            Hey Mike are you on Twitter? If so, can ping me: https://twitter.com/benz145

          • Mike Porter

            Sorry Ben I’m from the industry but have to remain anonymous due to NDAs and trade secrets.

          • benz145

            Can you shoot me and email?Happy to respect your need for anonymity. ben at roadtovr.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      But I don’t want transparent display…. I want VR to be in another world…
      And they might have patent, but they still haven’t shown any new VR product, even though in june 2019 they said they would announce new VR/AR products in a couple of months, well 6 months later (which is IMHO beyond ‘a couple’) still no word.. I had hoped Samsung would show something at the CES, but still nothing….

  • Mike Porter

    Something which you may have not noticed during testing:

    The reflective-polarizer-based folded “pancake” lenses have poor contrast and get progressively larger as you try to increase the FOV. For this 80-90 degree FOV the form factor is probably fine but skeptical about the contrast.

    • benz145

      Yup, there’s definitely tradeoffs for pancake. Brighter, better displays may be necessary. The headset isn’t far enough along to truly critique the image at this point, which is why I didn’t do much of that in the piece, though it was clear that the image inside was dimmer than one would want.

      • Mike Porter

        Dimmer is fine if they just increase the LCD backlight, but what about contrast? I mean were the blacks black or washed out grey? I suppose if the screen was too dim it would be hard to tell.

      • kalqlate
        • benz145

          Exactly xD

          • I would also say some of these smaller 1″ panels like the Sony panel used by Nreal are already bright so if a similar panel is being used this would allow a pancake/doublet to be used with no apparent loss in brightness.

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        What is the price target on this? In a few years people may start owning more than one headset and I could get a secondary headset for the road that has a tiny form factor and terrible display contrast and such because it’s not my main mean of consumption.

  • dk

    so 90fov means …something like 80 in reality right? that’s usually how it goes ….but we’ll see

    • benz145

      Yeah if Rift/Vive/PSVR is your baseline for ~100 FOV diagonal, this is ~80. However, FOV measurements are wildly non-standard.

  • mellott124

    I was super impressed by this headset. One of the hidden gems of CES. Their pancake lens was one of the better ones I’ve seen. I’ve heard the Panasonic one looks even better but I haven’t been able to see that one.

    • Mike Porter

      how were the blacks?

    • Andrew Jakobs

      I was wondering why RtVR still hadn’t reported on the Panasonic.. But the Panasonic one was using much higher resolution microdisplays if I’m not mistaken, but only have a FOV of 70 degrees, so that’s a real dealbreaker.. VRHMD’s need to be at least 110 degrees (which most here already think is way too smal for 2020)..

      • benz145

        Just a matter of limited time (we’ll get to it). Panasonic’s headset is far more in the prototype phase than Pico VR Glasses. Yes, the display Panasonic is using was much sharper, but at present it isn’t filling the whole lens FOV. They’re waiting on larger display.

      • Rogue Transfer

        I agree that 110° horizontal FOV is notably better for immersion, but most headsets still don’t meet that by quite a bit(for example, the recent Rift S is measured by most as ~85° & the HP Reverb is around 95°, which is just over the Rift CV1’s 94° and less than the Vive’s 110°, but only if the Rift & Vive are used with ideal thin facepads).

        You do get used to slightly lower FOV, like 95°, but it’s never quite as immersive, esp. the less you go.

  • This could be great for someone like me that takes VR180 and 360 photos and videos. A low friction way to show them is always welcome. As long as it is cheap. I take my Oculus Go with me on trips in part because I would have less of a heart attack if it is lost or stolen…

    • Ad

      Couldn’t you show them on a Gear or even cardboard?

      • I have used both. Both require fiddling around with a phone and draining its battery fast. Also the Gear VR is no longer supported and will not work with future phones. The Go has been the best solution for my use case but something even more portable would be welcome.

        Most of my use cases involve anime and comic conventions. I use the Go at my hotel to view photos and videos and this when I’m in the field: https://www.amzn.com/dp/B075857ZTW/

        I can not use a full PC headset until I get home and do not require 6 DoF so I keep an eye on solutions like these. If it is cheap, does not drain a phone to badly, and can be use quickly it catches my eye. You will be surprised how many people are blow away by the Veer clip ons alone. People are more impressed by the Go. It would be nice to have something in between.

        • Ad

          I guess, I just wish 3doF wasn’t even called VR. Call them 3D viewfinders or something, because for some reason all these companies keep making these “VR” devices with software and functionality from 2014 and no plans to upgrade its capabilities.

  • MosBen

    I know that inside out tracking is all the rage and seems to be the future, but I wonder if it would be possible to have a single exterior, battery powered sensor that you could set on a desk or table and would augment an inside-out system while in use, and then clip onto the HMD when not in use.

    • benz145

      This is basically what Nolo is doing, but the tracking is bad. It’s not a great solution, but certainly viable for some situations. It would be cool to have a battery-powered Lighthouse.

      • Mike Porter

        Also if Valve could manufacture it cheaper by not having high quality military-grade-looking components inside the system that would help outside-in adoption as well.
        From their controllers to their headsets they make them needlessly premium and pricey.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          that’s what I thought was strange, they boosted that the reduction and simplification of the parts in the lighthouse 2.0 would make them much cheaper, but when they were actually released, yes it had lesser parts, but the price was much more expensive, and it didn’t even support the original vive….

        • Ad

          I’m guessing they didn’t want them to be as loud or to break as easily. But yes, those things need to get cheaper if SteamVR tracking will survive.

          • Mike Porter

            I think they use hard disc drive motors which should be cheap. Not really sure what’s expensive in them, maybe the IC. Low to medium power laser diodes are pretty cheap.

          • Ad

            It’s weird, the main barrier to SteamVR tracking is the price, they need to get it down so they can give the index a price cut and get HTC back into lighthouse tracking.

          • Mike Porter

            I’m not sure what happened to the OEM 60USD price.https://www.roadtovr.com/developers-now-receiving-steamvr-2-0-base-stations/

            I’m skeptical the BOM cost went up, they are probably just selling them at a high profit.

          • Ad

            That would be a weird thing to do when SteamVR tracking already seems less competitive to the consumer.

          • Mike Porter

            It’s all about the profit in the end. Maybe they think selling less but with much more profit margin is better for them than selling more but with less profit at this point.
            We can only speculate.
            What I do know is it’s unlikely a product they used to give away for 60USD for only a 45 piece “bulk” order would somehow cost this much more to manufacture.

          • Ad

            I don’t think it’s for profit, they don’t need the money. They need market share and to shore up their flanks when Facebook is doing so well.

          • Mike Porter

            give me a better reason
            Companies always need money

          • Ad

            I don’t think it makes them money. Facebook could charge 2000 dollars for the quest, that would not make them more money.

          • Mike Porter

            false analogy though

          • I mentioned in another post it probably has more to do with volume as is mentioned in the link you provided above (for inclusion in (reseller) system setups). If 10K volume is all we’re seeing, this could indeed explain seeing its price for one being $149. Which makes more sense since they are out of stock this early in its release cycle.

        • I mentioned it above, but having read the papers on its design, it is both elegantly simplistic and complex at the same time that I think makes its cost is justified. Also, Valve has made all the information open source and the company making the emitters, detectors and appropriate hardware glue can be purchased by anyone or in anyone else wants to manufacture them.

          Frankly, I think the cost is due to volume. I do not think many have been made, and Valve’s cost estimations were based on higher volumes.

      • Ad

        Is electromagnetic tracking actually viable or is it just a gimmick? It seems really impressive on issues like occlusion and I wonder if it would work outside in the daylight (with shutters on the lenses).

        • david vincent

          I’ll tell you when I will receive my STEM system.
          (Kidding ;-/)

          • This is really funny if you have followed any of Youtube videos on this.

        • benz145

          EM is viable, though just to be clear, Nolo is using ultrasonic and laser. Pico Neo 2 uses EM controller tracking.

          • Really skeptical having covered Sixense for five years. A lot of problems making it both inexpensive and commercially viable. But if someone could, it would do away with occlusion problems. Problem is creating tuned magnetic fields that one, are not susceptible interference and two, provide a large enough field to track accurately for large enough space.

    • Ad

      2.0 base stations appear to work on a desk or table. And one base station roughly works for seared use.

      • MosBen

        I’m not an expert, but wouldn’t camera-based tracking be better for full-body tracking, as opposed to SteamVR, which is IR-based?

        • Mike Porter

          No, unless AI deep learning is involved, maybe in the future.

        • Ad

          No because the camera is on the headset. If you mean an external camera then still no because SteamVR tracking uses actual body tracking on a skeletal model. For cheap you could try a Kinect but I don’t know how well that would work when occluded.

          • MosBen

            Huh. I thought that Steam used IR and the stations were passive, just putting out the IR signal, while all of the data was collected by receivers on the headset and wands, which would mean that it would only track specific items that you were holding/wearing. But if not, cool.

          • Ad

            No they are, that’s why you buy additional trackers that collect data. But because the laser array is so huge you could have as many peripherals as you want.

            I’m saying insider cameras are on your face so they can’t track your feet.

          • MosBen

            Yeah, but an outside camera-based system, like a Kinect, can track your whole body without additional trackers.

          • Ad

            It isn’t really tracking it though. Even the Rift S controllers have a lot of hardware inside of them, and then the infrared camera in the headset sees the tracking rings. Using just a camera would result in terrible tracking, probably worse than the Cosmos.

            So for your body, just using a camera (which isn’t free anyway) will have occlusion issues, sub par tracking, and even latency.

          • Having worked with a group to test its viability, I can say it leaves a lot to be desired. Especially if used with a smartphone. Too much camera noise causing jitter and tracking problems. However, there is possibility that some of the newer low cost solid state dual LIDAR systems could do this, but I can’t see a system like this with its computational system costing less than a $10000 right now. But… I can tell you the if we can bring the cost down, the blows any other tracking system out of the water at up to a 1000 frames per second.

          • A combination, since the passive infrared produce a synchronized wave of light that passes over the headset enabling IR detectors microseconds apart. It is this triggering pattern that is computed to provide translation/rotation information. The papers that describe the algorithms and math behind it show its simplicity (low cost hardware) and complexity (computations for mechanical jitter, latency etc) at the same time.

          • MosBen

            Thanks for the feedback. Interesting stuff!

  • Ad

    Seriously, kill 3doF. I wouldn’t even care as much that this used a phone if it just didn’t have that absurd limitation. Add hand tracking or that VR pen thing that uses SteamVR and this would be really interesting or even compelling.

  • Jonathan Winters III

    Why do engineers at small companies keep introducing half-baked VR headsets/controllers, littering the landscape full of failed products, and making VR look like a failure? 3dof? Really?

    • Mike Porter

      Something to show off to get venture capital

    • G-man

      make it 6dof and suddenly its twice as big and twice as heavy. this form factor or smaller and lighter for media consumption has a place. get over it.

  • Ted Joseph

    I have Google Stadia, and am now sold on cloud gaming (no more consoles for me), and cloud processing! I hope Google is now working on a light weight AR and VR headset that uses 5G and WIFI tech to utilize the processing of the cloud. This is the future, and my experience with Stadia confirms that there is no going back to purchasing expensive hardware that is obsolete in a few years.. I think this will be the end of most purchased hardware once a lightweight set of AR glasses is introduced (i.e. no more TV’s, computers, cellphones, laptops, etc. All AR through glasses running on the latest tech in the cloud… its coming).. Lets hope it comes sooner than later, I am getting old! …

    • mfx

      Dude, that’s so spotted that you work for a company in charge of promoting stadia online…. cloud gaming is not the subject here.

    • Sadly I will not touch another VR product by Google. If they can’t have the whole market to themselves they quit leaving developers hanging and not that there were many content developers for Daydream anyway.

    • Rogue Transfer

      The future for Google Stadia and all Cloud gaming will be Cloud inserted adverts in your content or on loading. Enjoy it while its mostly ad-free – that won’t last forever and you’ll be unable to escape if everyone joins up with them, as you won’t have control over the content with no local processing console.

  • Mike Porter
    • mfx

      I tried to learn more about those, that’s so weird, no official page, no deep review of it, it’s like nobody and everyone cares at the same time.
      They look quite promising, maybe an article about those on Road to VR ?

      • Mike Porter

        Maybe they’re banned in US like their phones and not advertised to US and in english?

        • Not necessarily the HMD but their phone, which maybe like LG & their R100 (yep still have it) only worked with their phones.

          Also, once a Chinese company starts down this path, similar iterations pop up elsewhere with similar look & feel if not identical electronic components. Just look at the number of Nreal like devices shown at CES this year. Also, I think the smaller high pixel density displays are more available at a lower price may have something to with the surge in smaller HMDs.

  • Again thanks Ben for writing about those items tucked away. However I disagree that this has not potential without 6DOF HMD/Controller. One of the markets that I have been researching and creating my own headset using the Daydream standard for was the Dental industry. The lens boxes on the Dreamtreader were extremely compact and using 42mm achromatic lenses my DOF was wider than the Daydream in much more compact frame that also allowed better air circulation of the phone (see image w. Structure sensor attached for iPhone 8+). Sadly Google would not allow outside HW developers to encroach upon their own headsets and threatened 3rd party Daydream compatible controller manufacturers with lawsuits. That and Google now abandoning Daydream, shuttered all of my work in this area. However I still think this is viable market and this headset would seem to fit that market only if the HMD and Processor unit were less than $700. Of course it would need to bundled with a content distribution system similar to that used on commercial aircraft requiring licensing agreement fees to be paid, or if bundled with a low cost Android phone, apps and content could be loaded directly, leaving the licensing concerns up to the profession using it. Or if PiMax made it both Android & iOS compatible, leave the content and app installation up to the patient before coming in, which I hope would allow them to sell this for less than $400, even $300.

    Having tested this myself and with others with the Dreamtreader while getting dental work done, it really does make the time go by much faster. More important, it also blunted my anxiety that normally goes along with those visits.

    As far as offering 6DOF, they or others could provide aftermarket conversions or another more expensive model since even rudimentary SLAM can be done with inexpensive B/W SOC cameras & processing/fusion SOC. (I may even know of someone who has been working on such a thing :) https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b50d9c1be5d06de402b064bbef5cac86920a2c7b7f7796db0db6155554ca9f74.png

  • Ben did Pico say they were using a “pancake” lens system based a dual lenses or is possible this is doublet design?

  • Adding the cameras for 6DOF and hand tracking is not huge jump. Cameras are tiny and cheap. They must have rushed this unit for CES.

  • Kaput

    Wow
    Clever Thumbs up
    I always supported cell phone tethered VR headset as it is the only way it can be made smaller & lighter which is THE most important. Employing pancake lenses is another appreciable method.
    Great

  • mellott124

    So where are these at? And the Panasonic ones. It’s been a while now.