So far, there have been roughly two varieties of virtual reality headsets: You have your mobile units like the Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR, which use smartphones for the processing and display; and you have premium, high-powered units like Facebook’s Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive, which are expensive and require a lot of space and setup. But with an upcoming headset from Chinese manufacturer Pico, called the Neo, there comes a new type of VR hardware – one that offers a little bit of mobile and a little bit of premium.
Like the Samsung Gear VR and Google’s proposed headset, the Pico Neo is portable and powered by battery. But unlike those headsets, Neo doesn’t need a smartphone to operate. Its brains (Android-based) are in its controller. So, it’s a dedicated headset, but actually more so than the Oculus and Vive, as it doesn’t need a PC or gaming console to hook into. However, you can also choose to hook it up to a PC if you wish.
Since its major components live in its wired SNES-like gamepad, Pico Neo’s headset is light; the company claims the Neo weighs less than the Vive or Oculus eyewear, at a weight of 320 grams without the straps.
The controller is also filled with sensors, which allow for motion-sensing, and has a back touchpad, similar to the Playstation Vita.
The headset’s optional Tracking Kit includes two motion wands that look nearly identical to the Playstation Move controllers. The kit is flanked by two camera sensors that track the wands but do not provide the same room-scale VR offered by the Vive – the kind that lets players physically walk around inside of games.
It has its own app that offers up some mainstream movies such as Transformers, Tron, and Pirates of the Caribbean as well as some games. When hooked up to a PC it can also offer SteamVR games, which currently run on the Vive.
Though Neo operates on a version of Android N, it’s unclear whether it’ll be compatible with Google’s new Daydream virtual reality platform, which is built to operate on Android N devices and promises to offer loads of VR content moving forward.
Pico boasts an impressive spec sheet for the Neo, however it’s not quite as robust as its competitors. It does win out in the price category, though. When Pico Neo is released to the Chinese market this summer, it’s expected to have a price tag of $550; that’ll get you the headset and controller. The Oculus Rift is currently selling for $600 while HTC Vive runs a whopping $800 – and of course those devices need PCs.
Sony’s Playstation VR headset is set for release in October at $499 for the bundle and will offer a lot of the same features as Pico’s system, particularly a motion-sensing bar and Move controllers.