Pico Technology is gearing up to disrupt the VR industry with the first self-contained, 6-degree of freedom (6DoF) VR headset with 6DoF motion controllers. The Pico Neo CV offers a room-scale VR experience without external cameras or a tethered host computer.
In early January, at CES 2017, Pico Technology revealed the Pico Neo CV and said that the hardware would hit the market within the year. Pico didn’t live up to its 2017 release plans, but that could be because the company went back to the drawing board after CES and redesigned the headset, the controllers, and the tracking technology.
The Neo CV headset the Pico showed off at CES featured two 90Hz “1.5K displays,” integrated speakers with AM3D 3D spatial audio technology, and internal gyro and rotational sensors. The headset relied on an optional external camera system to provide spatial tracking. The previous Neo CV design also included a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SoC, which seemed somewhat underpowered for a self-contained headset, especially after Qualcomm revealed the Snapdragon 835 SoC at the same show. Pico said that it took advantage of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon VR SDK to maximize the performance, but we still wondered if the Snapdragon 820 would be powerful enough for compelling VR at high resolution.
Evidently, Pico had reservations about its previous hardware design and went back to the drawing board. The new Pico Neo CV headset features Qualcomm’s higher-end SoC, which should handle the rendering workload more effectively than the older Snapdragon 820. Using the Snapdragon 835 VR SoC puts the Pico Neo CV in good company. That’s the same processor that HTC opted to use in the Vive Focus headset, and Lenovo’s standalone Daydream headset is also powered by an 835 VR chip. Qualcomm’s SoC also powers ODG’s R8 and R9 smartglasses.
The Pico Neo CV also includes 4GB of “high-speed” RAM, which should be ample for mobile VR experiences. Pico Technology didn’t say whether the headset includes internal storage, but it accepts up to 128GB SD cards, so storage shouldn’t be a problem.
When Pico Technology revealed the previous iteration of the Neo CV headset, the company didn’t release the full hardware specifications. Pico said the headset featured 1.5K displays, but now we know the panels' vertical resolution is higher than the width of each eye. The headset includes two 3.5" 1440x1600 pixel LCDs that operate at 90Hz. Pico didn’t mention anything about an IPD adjustment system, and the renderings of the headset lead us to believe the lenses are fixed inside the headset. Pico did not reveal what type of lenses it installed in the Neo CV.
The previous iteration of the Pico Neo CV headset featured 3-DoF tracking out of the box, and the company offered an optional external tracking system that enabled 6-DoF tracking. The external tracking system was also necessary for Pico’s motion controllers. The new version of the headset doesn’t need additional hardware to enable the full range of tracking. Pico’s latest revision features two front-facing cameras that provide 6DoF spatial tracking for the headset.
The new controllers also offer internal 6DoF tracking, but they don’t require cameras of any kind. Pico’s new motion controller design uses “ultra-sonics” to determine the device’s orientation and location in relation to the headset. Pico didn’t go into detail about how the motion controller’s ultra-sonic technology works, but we surmise that they controllers emit a frequency that the headset can pick up and use to calculate their movement. With any luck, we’ll be able to pry the specifics out of Pico at CES 2018.
Pico Technology didn’t reveal the exact release date, but we expect the first headsets to roll out the door in early 2018. Pico is asking $749 for the headset, and it’s currently accepting pre-orders from business customers, but it’s not ready to take orders from general consumers.