Before the holiday season, Pimax announced a new VR headset called Artisan that looks to fill the low-price gap in the company’s product offerings. Although the headset is able to use Valve’s SteamVR tracking standard, a model is set to arrive with a NOLO VR tracking and controller kit, a move that’s meant to appeal to entry-level users without SteamVR base stations or controllers.

Update (January 7th, 2020): In a previous version of this article it was reported that the panel was 1,600 × 1,440, while it is in reality 1,700 × 1,440.

The Artisan headset itself is said to reduce costs by including less expensive RGB stripe LCD panels, which features dual 1,700 × 1,440 displays clocked at 120Hz refresh, and a 140 degree horizontal (170 diagonal) field of view.

Talking to MRTV’s Sebastian Ang, Pimax COO Kevin Henderson detailed the company’s two upcoming versions of Artisan: a standard model without accessories or integrated audio, and a version with Nolo VR tracking base station, Nolo controllers, head tracking marker, and a flexible head strap with integrated audio—the later of which Henderson compares to the company’s previous “4K” headset in function.

Pimax “4K” with integrated audio, Image courtesy Pimax

Both versions of Artisan feature compatibility with SteamVR tracking, however Henderson explains the move to include Nolo VR tracking was a way of letting users play 6DOF PC VR games out of the box at a cheaper all-in price than something like Valve Index whilst simultaneously leaving an upgrade path for users looking to adopt Valve’s tracking standard later down the line. When purchased separately a pair of SteamVR 2.0 base stations and Index controllers alone costs $580.

While Pimax is couching Artisan as an entry-level solution, it’s still unclear what either Artisan versions will cost, or when they’re slated to arrive. Pimax is showing Artisan at CES 2020, so we’re hoping to find out more when we stop by their booth on our haunt through the convention’s massive halls.

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Nolo VR Tracking

Nolo VR, a Beijing-based company, offers its $200 6DOF tracking kit which is typically paired with 3DOF headsets such as Oculus Go or Samsung Gear VR in order to ‘convert’ them into 6DOF headsets, replete with 6DOF head and controller tracking.

Image courtesy NOLO VR

Nolo VR does this wirelessly by way of its PolarTraq technology, which is based on an optic-acoustic-radio-signal tracking technology developed by the company.

Henderson tells MRTV that support for Nolo VR is also going to be baked into Pi Tool, Pimax’s compatibility layer for their range of “8K” and “5K” wide field of view headsets.

Nolo VR’s solution is by no means perfect, as it suffers from the same sort of occlusion issues that any single base station tracking standard might, however it seems to be popular enough to garner the company with continued investments, the latest of which arrived to the tune of $15 million in June 2019. We’re looking forward to find out just how far Nolo VR has come in terms of reliability and latency, two sticking points for the system when it was first introduced in 2017.

We have feet on the ground in Las Vegas for CES 2020, which takes place January 7 – 10. Check back soon for all things AR/VR to come from one of the world’s biggest consumer electronics shows.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Blargh

    hmm, wonder if nolo vr allows multiple base stations to get around occlusion, and whether the controller’s internal accelerometers help with position tracking during occlusion.

    • Blomman

      At least the earlier NOLO versions do not as reported by NOLO support. NOLO allows for 360 tracking if you mount the base station straight above you but you still can get occlusion if you try to do stuff when leaning over the controllers and away from the center of your play space..

  • mfx

    I hope they will be VERY smart about the price they ask because even if the headset has a quite good FOV, but the definition is a bit weak for a wide angle however, so pixels will be quite big. And the fact they don’t provide their own tracking system let user with two bad choices :

    -This weird NOLO system that really looks like a first version protoype from pre Vive era, and which cost almost the price of the full Samsung odyssey plus kit during Black Friday..

    -The Valve station, which will make either the full kit way to expensive for the specs, or in case people already own one… also already own a good headset.

    The only way this could have been interesting in front of a WMR headset or an Oculus Rift-S would have been a 449 USD pricetag with a good integrated inside out tracking..

    ..but it’s obviously not this at all so unless they sell it for 249 USD and only target Valve station owner who want a cheap second headset, I am sorry but I don’t see how this can sell well.

  • Marc Holmes

    Nolo tracking is bad the accuracy is low they get offset and jitter all over the place.

  • Ad

    This is a bad idea for two reasons.

    1) They’re removing any modularity to their headset, which makes the price harder to swallow and makes it harder for consumers to feel like they can get be best of everything by combining things. I think they should have tried to make cheaper base stations that would with SteamVR.

    2) They are a small company and newcomers aren’t necessarily going to take huge risks, whereas people with a Vive or other earlier headset might do so. I think they should have tried to make their own base stations, but more so they should make controllers that are much cheaper than index ones but have most of the same functionality.

    At the very least I just don’t see quite a place for them in the market when there is a hole where the cosmos should have been.

    I think they should sell a package that comes with either cheap but more functional pimax controllers, or a couple for the knuckles, two base stations made by anyone, and a headset with an RGB stripe matrix and a good resolution. Consumers need a none oculus choice that could let them get the knuckles and a clear screen for around 600 dollars.

  • The only good thing I can say about Nolo is it pushed me to buy a Rift. When I got mine the “Summer of Rift” sale was taking place. Other Nolo users having issues decided to sell theirs and buy a Rift instead. Nolo was good enough to let me see what I was missing but in the end I upgraded to Rift.