Pico Neo 2 Eye hands-on: The 4K, eye tracking, enterprise Oculus Quest

Again in March 2019, I famous that the consumer VR headset market was becoming overcrowded and confusing — the results of a glut of questionable new choices — whereas the enterprise VR market was changing into attention-grabbing. “In case you’re within the C-suite and seeking to purchase some leading edge gear, that is an particularly thrilling time for VR {hardware},” I mentioned, “although I anticipate much more innovation over the following yr.”

Flash ahead to at present, and the actual and digital worlds have each modified much more than I anticipated. On the predictable aspect, among the aforementioned VR headsets have already fizzled out, and Fb’s Oculus Quest has gained kudos as a standalone VR platform. Unpredictably, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down conferences, workplaces, and film theaters, out of the blue making VR a viable medium for each social gatherings and leisure.

Whereas Quest has grow to be the go-to VR headset for general consumers, Pico is difficult Quest’s enterprise bona fides with comparable however higher-end fashions referred to as the Neo 2 and Neo 2 Eye. With the $699 Neo 2, you get the identical 128GB of storage and Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset as a $499 Quest, however a noticeably larger 4K decision per eye. For an extra $200 premium, the Neo 2 Eye provides dual-eye Tobii gaze monitoring. Sure, $899 isn’t low-cost, but it surely’s lower than Oculus’s $1,000 Quest for Business platform. And like Quest, every Neo 2 can be utilized as a standalone system or hook up with a PC; for the latter, Pico makes use of Qualcomm’s wi-fi “Boundless XR” over Wi-Fi 5.

Above: The Pico Neo 2 Eye (proper) is an enterprise-focused different to Fb’s standard “all-in-one” client VR headset Oculus Quest (left).

Picture Credit score: Jeremy Horwitz/VentureBeat

In brief, Pico is giving enterprises early entry to some key next-generation show and eye management applied sciences at present, when Facebook appears unlikely to ship a standalone headset with either feature in 2020 — maybe not in 2021, both. The important thing query is whether or not enterprises will probably be keen to pay Pico’s non-trivial premiums for the superior {hardware}, and take care of the Neo 2’s ergonomic tough edges.

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I’ve been testing the deluxe Neo 2 Eye since final week, and the expertise has been concurrently stunning and attention-grabbing. At first, I used to be shocked by how comparable the Neo 2 and Quest experiences really feel, if Pico clients don’t thoughts dropping a few of Oculus’s design flare and polish. After turning the headset on, Neo 2 customers see a model of Oculus’s protecting digital perimeter-defining Guardian, which lacks the flamboyant UI and branding, however contains the identical primary dialog packing containers and a black-and-white passthrough mode.

Above: A view by way of the Neo 2 Eye’s lens on the house display screen.

Picture Credit score: Jeremy Horwitz/VentureBeat

Then there’s a house display screen interface which may as effectively be the identical because the one on Quest, however larger in decision. Assuming you align Neo 2’s fresnel lenses correctly together with your eyes, you’ll immediately discover a markedly larger show decision than the Quest: 1,920 by 2,160 (4.1 million pixels) per lens, up from Quest’s 1,440 by 1,600 (2.Three million pixels). The distinction intimately is placing; it’s a lot tougher to see particular person pixels, and there’s no apparent “display screen door impact” when utilizing Neo 2. That is notably spectacular on condition that Pico’s utilizing the identical processor discovered within the Quest, simply outfitted with extra RAM to help with the visuals.

The Neo 2 contains some demos that exhibit how the upper decision will work in observe, and after seeing one in every of them — a believable digital movie show the place the display screen truly had the crispness I’d anticipate from at present shuttered cinemas — I used to be offered on the headset’s potential to ship not solely a next-generation viewing expertise, however one thing that mid-pandemic/post-pandemic shoppers would admire. Placing ergonomic issues apart, I may see myself having fun with a full theatrical film on this headset, and changing into extra immersed in much less pixelated 360-degree content material. That mentioned, it stays to be seen whether or not enterprise customers will care, and the way Neo 2 will carry out with extra processor-taxing 3D purposes.

Decision apart, the usual Neo 2 isn’t a wholesale and even main reimagining of Quest. Pico’s 75Hz refresh fee isn’t perceptibly totally different from Quest’s 72Hz, and there are believable rumors that the following Quest (Quest S) will transfer to 90Hz in 2021, lowering nausea potential for customers. Moreover, I hunted by way of Neo 2’s settings and couldn’t discover the software-based IPD (inter-pupillary distance) adjustment software that Pico claims to incorporate; Quest has an IPD adjustment lever constructed straight into its housing.

In case your enterprise is keen to pay $899 per headset, the Neo 2 Eye provides a second differentiator: totally built-in Tobii eye monitoring. Tobii’s Highlight system checks your eyes 90 instances per second, utilizing the positions of your retinas for cursor motion. Some extraordinarily primary demos are included with the Neo 2 Eye to indicate how your gaze could be transferred right into a digital avatar or used to spotlight objects in a room, however I couldn’t discover something wow-inducing within the examples.

Neo 2 Eye builders will be capable to use the Tobii system to supply foveated rendering, a game-changing function that lets a VR headset maximize element the place you’re trying, and cut back it within the periphery. Not one of the headset’s included demo software program let me take a look at the foveated rendering, however Pico says it might enhance body charges by as much as 66% and cut back shading masses by as much as 72% — good good points, assuming an enterprise is keen to pony up for the dearer Eye headset after which purchase or code apps particularly made to assist the {hardware}.

There are another design issues with the Neo 2 headset that benefit consideration. I discovered that I wanted to align the headset in a considerably uncomfortable manner relative to my ears to have it correctly observe my eye positions; following the in-headset alignment directions, the stiff headband presses down sufficient on my ears to make them fold down. Additional ergonomic enhancements to the scarf (or maybe ear surgical procedure) would assist me make extra of this function.

Additionally attention-grabbing: Neo 2 concurrently manages to be as giant because the Quest in entrance and far bigger within the again. Not like the Quest, which makes use of a mushy plastic and Velcro strap at the back of your head, Pico contains a big plastic compartment on the rear with a tightening dial for match adjustment, plus a second (3.5mm) energy port as an alternative choice to the USB-C port on the headset’s high entrance floor. This appears unnecessarily difficult in contrast with the Quest, however Pico might have had good causes to pursue a unique design.

As an illustration, the Neo 2 handbook suggests {that a} WiGig/802.11advert model of the headset will probably be out there, and it’s doable that the 60GHz antennas or another {hardware} will probably be situated within the again, somewhat than near your face. It’s additionally doable that the unit’s battery is sitting contained in the again compartment, balancing out the headset’s weight. My view is that the the system isn’t as comfy as Quest, however then, it does have extra and higher {hardware} inside.

My emotions on Neo 2’s controllers are combined. I like the truth that they’re USB-C rechargeable, in contrast to the annoyingly AA-powered Quest controllers, and include their very own charging cable. Moreover, Pico’s determination to trace them with a magnetic system somewhat than Quest’s IR digicam/constellation LED strategy might yield advantages for some customers and in particular use instances — notably when the headset’s inside-out monitoring system can’t “see” the controllers. However, the Quest controllers really feel just a little extra comfy, and Oculus’s finger and hand monitoring tips are two steps forward of Pico in the interim.

Software program is arguably the most important problem for Neo 2 customers, although as an enterprise headset, which may not be as severe of a deficiency as it could be for a client product. My headset arrived with pre-installed VR video viewers and an online browser, some extraordinarily rudimentary video games, and an app retailer to put in content material, all extra conspicuously based mostly on Android (8) than Oculus’s providing. Too lots of the demo apps had been buggy — one app wouldn’t load previous the title display screen, one other wouldn’t show 360 diploma movies, and a 3rd put up very PC-like error codes — however the ones that labored appeared good, and a exercise recreation referred to as OhShape confirmed how the Neo 2 {hardware} would make a 3D title like Beat Saber look with extra pixels (cleaner, and simply as easy as on Quest).

It could be unfair to anticipate the model new Neo 2 to have a software program library as strong as what Quest has constructed up over the past yr, and that will by no means occur given its enterprise focus. I think that Pico customers might want to rely extra closely on apps constructed by doggedly cross-platform builders (akin to Firefox Actuality) and customized apps from their enterprises than from corporations chasing client {dollars} and consumer bases.

Above: Firefox Actuality permits you to browse the online by way of Neo 2, and entry 360-degree VR content material that may increase to fill each lenses at will.

Picture Credit score: Jeremy Horwitz/VentureBeat

At this stage, my tackle the Pico Neo 2 Eye is considerably combined. I’m extra impressed than I anticipated to be by each the {hardware} and the consumer interface, each of that are intriguingly near the Oculus Quest expertise. Pico’s 4K shows and eye monitoring each have the potential to be main property over the Quest for customers, and the headset’s potential to pivot between standalone and wi-fi PC modes will show an interesting take a look at of enterprise builders’ longer-term ambitions for VR.

Much less positively, neither of the Neo 2’s tentpole options comes low-cost, and the present state of Pico’s software program assist solely hints at their eventual worth — absent compelling demos, even enterprises might battle to justify spending $200 greater than a 128GB Quest only for the 4K shows, say nothing of one other $200 for the eye-tracking. Add to that the headset’s aforementioned ergonomic issues, and there’s no straightforward winner right here.

Pico’s Neo 2 headsets at present present a compelling glimpse at the way forward for standalone and wirelessly tethered VR, constructing on the inspiration Oculus laid final yr with Quest. Solely time will inform whether or not builders and enterprises create Neo 2- and Neo 2 Eye-specific software program that actually justifies the platform’s added expense. In case you’re excited about checking one or each of them out, they’re now available worldwide, with additional particulars at Pico’s website.

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