The Pico Neo: The Oft Forgotten Other Stand-Alone HMD

Bourbon Street VR's John Bourbonais gives his impressions of Pico's headset.

Now into my 4th year of working in the virtual reality (VR) space, the quest for an ideal headgear is an on-going quest.  During that time, my team first embarked on the first, second, and third generation Samsung Gear VR, the first and second-generation Google Daydream, the Oculus SDK, and most recently, a pair of Oculus Rifts.  A few months ago, the self-contained headgear manufacturer Pico appeared on my radar.

The Pico Goblin, priced at $250 (USD), was one of the first stand-alone VR headgear units with decent imager to hit the US market but the low refresh rate of 60Hz, dissuaded my investment past two units.  Shortly after the Goblin, the Neo, Pico’s higher priced unit, appeared in the market.  With a 90HZ refresh rate, 1440 x 1600 image resolution (2880 x 1600) and 6DOF, the Neo was a stand-out compared to other units presently on the market or those delivering during 2nd and 3rd quarter of 2018.   The Neo is packaged with either one or two Bluetooth controllers (wands) which further stirred my curiosity.  The cost of $750 (includes two wands) is steep but was right in line with what I had been my go to demonstration unit, a Samsung Gear VR driven by a Samsung Galaxy 8+ smart phone.

On many fronts the Neo delivers.  The 90Hz refresh rate negates nauseousness and the imagers produce the best VR image I have seen.  The head band, similar to the Sony Playstation VR headgear, is effective and, IMHO, preferable to the elastic bands found on most headgear.  A Micro SD card can store up to 256GB and the unit has an internal storage of 64GB.  Additionally, the Neo is equipped with a viewing angle of 101 degrees, a Snapdragon 835 processor, 2.4GHz WiFi, and 6DOF.  Compared to other present US based VR headgear offerings, Neo is at the top.  Curiously, the headgear escapes media attention and is constantly overlooked in headgear top 10 lists.  I remain unsure of why that is.

Pico NeoThe Neo is not without problems.  The wands are constantly needing realignment.  This is not a issue for our VR applications as the majority of our training based clients do better without wands as they are lost over time.   Additionally, the Neo takes a bit of getting use to as the headgear does not naturally find an optimized position on a user’s head like the industry standard elastic bands.  Because the headgear has no focus control, proper focus is obtained by shifting the headgear up and down over the front of one’s face until the sweet spot is found.  This is fine for the seasoned user but the novice may find themselves struggling during the first couple of uses.  Many of these shortcomings are negated after repeated use.

The future is promising for Pico.  An updated Neo with 120Hz refresh rate, further improved image quality and the addition of a focus control, will keep my attention on this overlooked headgear throughout 2018, and if they continue to stay ahead of the pack, well into the future.

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