Hands-on with Pico Goblin: Covering the Bases of Introductory VR

It's well built but premium content might be an issue.

Mobile virtual reality (VR) head-mounted displays (HMDs) such as Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard have dominated the market thanks to being cheap and easy to get to grips with. Needing a smartphone to power them hasn’t really impeded sales – Samsung has been offering loads of promotions while Cardboard could easily be picked up for free – but this year there’s going to be plenty more competition coming from standalone headsets. These are being designed as a middle ground between mobile and PC-based devices, offering a complete package with no additional hassles. One company hoping to capture the imagination of VR consumers is Pico, and it’s recently been showcasing it’s latest product, the Goblin.

First impressions of the Pico Goblin are good, with the all-in-one device feeling light weight and sturdy. The main body of the headset has the usual array of buttons for setting up and controlling the headset, with a dial on the top – similar to Gear VR – with which you can focus the image, and the power button. On the right hand side there are volume controls, a ‘home’ button taking you back to the main interface and a select button.

Pico Goblin headset plus controller

Most of the time you’ll be using the supplied remote control which has 3DoF tracking – so does the headset – for full interaction with all the videogames and experiences. Again this felt well designed and not too cheap and plastic. The front face has a very simple layout with a touchpad for the majority of input and a smaller home button. Whilst using the device in a couple of videogames it behaved as accurately and precisely as those of competitors such as Google Daydream, although it doesn’t have a trigger underneath.

As with all 3DoF tracking you can easily point and select but there’s no depth control as you get in higher-end devices like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive for example. That’s no mark against it – the Pico Goblin is significantly cheaper at $269 USD/£249 GBP – but it certainly does limit interaction somewhat. At that price it also comes in cheaper the Daydream and Gear VR when factoring in the cost of a compatible smartphone.

To actually wear and use the Pico Goblin was very comfortable – actually more so than the two aforementioned rivals – with the soft padding certainly providing a snug, enclosed fit. The straps were quick and simple to adjust with the whole device providing a premium experience that makes you wonder why there aren’t more of these on the market.

There were several experiences available when Pico demoed the Goblin at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2017, two of which were the usual shooting affair. The first was a wave shooter with goblins and other such enemies attacking from most directions. To fend them off a crossbow was provided which could fire almost as fast as the touchpad could be pressed. The touchpad also allowed for teleportation should too many enemies close in.

Pico Goblin rear image

The other title – both names were in Chinese – mixed up strategy and shooting. Players are fixed to one location and given a harpoon like gun to grab nearby boxes which could be pulled in to gain items. These would range from toy soldiers to cans of bug spray, or small metal robots to protect against loads of insects coming to get you. It was all very quaint and easy to grasp with little challenge. Both titles felt very much like tech demos more than fully fledged videogames, and that’s one thing that might undo Chinese headsets like this one if they don’t get significant developer support.

All in all, the Pico Goblin is a brilliant all-in-one headset for what it offers. The image is sharp and clear, and the build quality seems good without further extensive testing for long term durability. In terms of rivaling some of the bigger names in the industry Pico certainly has a compelling product. The big question still remains regarding content, which could be its achilles heel if it wants to compete.

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