When it comes to the daunting task of picking a VR headset for business purposes, there are so many parameters to take into account when making your decision; price, portability, power, battery life and list of applications to name a few. The Pico Neo 2 Eye, priced at $899 and produced by innovative Chinese company Pico, is here to make that decision easier.
Standalone headsets such as the Oculus Quest are a brilliant way to experience VR, that feeling of being completely untethered and able to explore the worlds created for us is something that is hard to replicate. The Pico aims to take this idea and run with it in their own, with a clear focus on the enterprise market. Many are touting the Neo 2 Eye as a “Quest on steroids”, it’s not hard to see why these comparisons are being made. First of all, it is very similar to the Oculus Quest; as in this is a six degree of freedom standalone headset with two controllers, but this comes with additional enterprise hardware which expands its use cases and potentially makes it much more useful than the Quest for training applications.
This is achieved with very comfortable (removable and washable) microfibre pads to protect the area around the eyes and nose, as well as at the back of the headset. The back of the headset is where a major ergonomic improvement is made over competitor headsets, this is achieved by moving the large and heavy battery needed to power such a device from the front end of the headset, to as part of the back strap, this not only stops the headset from being too front heavy, leading to neck strain in extended play sessions, but also allows for more room in the front for the updated tech that they have managed to pack into the sleek and eye catching device. It’s more than comfortable to carry around and allows for a nice balance. Over the longer play session, we didn’t notice anywhere near as much strain on my neck as compared to the very front heavy Quest.
There are also other features which set this headset apart, like the inclusion of expandable storage options in the form of an SD card slot on the bottom of the front plates, meaning that you could chop and change games on the fly if storage is an issue, gone are the days of having to delete endless games, movies and TV shows in order to make room for a more storage intensive title, instead all it takes is the changing of a small SD card and you are ready to go, more in line with other portable games consoles such as the Nintendo Switch. However, the Neo Eye 2 ships with 128GB of onboard storage, more than enough to be getting on with. Additionally, with the inclusion of VR application streaming via Steam VR it would take a lot of work in order to constantly be running out of storage on this device.
One of the main draws of this device is the phenomenally beautiful 4K display inside of the headset, allowing for some of the sharpest and most vibrant pictures I have seen since the PIMAX, and that required a high end computer or laptop to run it off. The display has a resolution of 3,840 × 2,160 total (1,920 × 2,160 per eye), which is beautiful and clear. For comparison, the Oculus Quest has a resolution of 2,880 x 1,600 total (1,440 x 1,600 per eye). The Neo 2 only has a single LCD panel though, while the Quest has dual OLED panels. This leads to greyer blacks and software only IPD adjustment with a range of 55 to 71 mm. My IPD is around 63 mm, so it’s okay for me, but it does feel a little uneasy every time I put the headset on until my eyes get used to it. I prefer a physical IPD adjustment so that the lenses can be best aligned with my eyes. The lenses and field of view aren’t much different when compared to the Quest. Both are Fresnel lenses and have a field of view of around 101 degrees. Like many other standalone headsets, hidden speakers are built into the headband, but if you want to connect your own headphones you can use the 3.5mm audio jack or Bluetooth, the latter of which is easy to set up and held a good connection even when away from the headset (although I’m not sure why they ever would be).
Alongside this, Eye Tracking provided by one of the current forerunners in the technology, Tobii. This allows us to experience foveated rendering, in which the tracking of the eyes can be used to dictate where to send more of the processing power and focus the workload to rendering what is in the main eyeline as opposed to that in your peripheral. This leads to much better framerates and sharper images as opposed to the normal, not tracked system. The tracking can also be used for some applicational use, such as being able to portray the movement of eyes on virtual avatars, this is shown in one of the apps that come with the device to showcase this tech, in which you are standing in a mirror and can use the different avatars available and move their eyes with yours in real time. This could be useful in a VR social setting as I felt as though the avatar I was seeing in the “mirror” was much more lifelike with the eye tracking on as compared with it turned off.
Alongside the headset you are also given 2 wireless controllers to use with the headset, unlike the singular handset bundled with Pico’s other offerings like the G2 or G2 4K. To best describe these controllers I would compare them to a middle ground of the HTC Vive’s wand controllers and the Oculus Touch controllers. Mainly due to the shape being like the Vive’s and the button + joystick combo being similar to that of the Oculus. Handily these controllers are USC-C rechargeable, as is the headset, which is a massive leap forward than having to change the AA batteries in a headset such as the Quest.
The user experience and interface inside the headset is also something to note, with it being very similar to that of the G2 model previous, it is once again a clean and crisp experience. Similar to that of the Oculus Home layout, it allows easy navigation around the various panels and tabs to get to the content you want. If this headset was to be used as a device for watching and consuming content then you are sure to appreciate the virtual movie theatre that can be used to watch videos that are loaded onto the device
The Neo 2 Eye is a very interesting headset and we were certainly impressed with the performance that it output. Its responsive, comfortable and when used with a game like Half-Life: Alyx, or watching some 4K video, it truly is one of the market leaders and shows Pico is a company to watch in this sphere.