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Wednesday, November 30, 2022
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Pico 4 VR Headset Announced in Europe

Pico 4 is a consumer-first headset, clearly in competition with Meta (at least, in Europe).

 

Pico announced their next-generation VR headsets, Pico 4 and Pico 4 Pro, at a hybrid event in Berlin and streamed live last Thursday, September 22. As well as the completely redesigned headsets and controllers, the event showcased news software including an updated operating system, launch titles, apps and integrations, and more. Let’s take a look.

Introduction From President Henry Zhou

Pico CEO, Henry Zhou, addressed an in-person and remote audience to announce the long-awaited headset that many see as a potential escalation of a competition between Pico and Meta. Rather than competition, the address put an emphasis on accessibility.

Pico CEO Henry Zhou - Pico 4 announcement
Pico CEO Henry Zhou

“Over the years, our products have become leading players in the field of VR. We’re ready to continue our path further, to make VR accessible to more people as we believe VR is for everyone,” said Zhou. “The Pico 4 is as light as a can of soda and puts zero pressure on your head.”

The headset was introduced as having a 105° diagonal FOV – an improvement of nearly 20 degrees from the Neo 3 (and Quest 2), with 6DoF touch-sensitive controllers. More specifics were presented by Pico’s Europe, Middle East, and Asia General Manager Leland Hedges.

See Also:  A Hands-On (P)Review of Pico Neo 3 Pro VR Headset

A Deeper Dive From Leland Hedges

“We have designed the Pico 4 to be one of the lightest and smallest form factors among all current, stand-alone 6DoF head-mounted displays,” said Hedges. “The main unit, without the straps and batteries, weighs only 295g.”

295g is just slightly over half a pound. It’s a little suspicious that they gave the weight without the battery – which can be a significant weight contribution. That’s particularly interesting as Leland later described the battery as the “largest battery” in the headset category, while promoting its fast-charging capabilities.

That said, the headset was counter-weight designed and pancake optics make the unit slimmer than any 6DoF headset we’ve seen so far. The form factor is only contested by the VIVE Flow, a wellness-oriented 3DoF headset with quite a bit less under the hood. Weight and aesthetics aside, Hedges specified 1200 PPI resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate.

Pico 4 VR headset
Pico 4

Hedges also introduced the completely redesigned Pico 4 controllers. The tracking ring twists around the grip, intended to prevent controllers from bumping into each other when both hands come into close proximity. Hedges also detailed a haptics system that sounds pretty impressive.

“Being able to feel interactions raises the bar for an immersive VR experience,” said Hedges. “The controller vibration not only syncs with what you’re hearing, but it can also simulate from the most delicate to the most intense feedback.”

New OS, Avatar System, Fitness Package, and More

Hedges continued to describe an updated operating system. This included more thoughtful user interfaces and menu call-ups, as well as the kind of graphic redesign that one can expect from a new OS. However, he also detailed some less-expected and more exciting updates.

For example, the new OS can manage 6DoF hand interactions for applications when the controller might get in the way. The headset also offers color passthrough for toggle-on AR.

An updated avatar system also features voice-operated lip-syncing for more engaging social interactions. There is also an avatar SDK making it easier for creators to integrate Pico avatars into their creations.

That wasn’t the only creator-focused announcement. The app also has a special toolkit for creating and sharing VR content, as well as for remote assistance and real-time screen projection.

Next, Daniel Browne, Pico’s Head of European Marketing, introduced a Pico Fitness app that looks and seems to act suspiciously similar to Meta’s.

Pico 4 VR Headset Announced in Europe

It does have innovations, like leaderboards and achievements, and compatibility with Apple health apps. There are even special fitness trackers in development and coming soon. Browne also announced Just Dance VR, coming exclusively to Pico 4 through a partnership with Ubisoft.

The Pico 4 also features two launch titles, The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners Chapter 2, and Peaky Blinders: King’s Ransom. Other gaming titles coming to the headset include Demeo, Green Hell, Ultimechs, and Puzzling Places. The launch also announced Pico Worlds, a social and light gaming platform coming to the headset later this year.

The Pico 4 Pro and Price Points

Hedges returned to present some additional features of a Pico 4 Pro, which will require no personally-identifiable information for login. Infrared cameras inside the headset allow automatic IPD adjustment as well as face tracking for more expressive avatars.

Pico 4 Pro
Pico 4 Pro

“Now, your avatar will be truly lifelike, allowing you to express yourself freely in the digital world,” said Hedges.

Hedges also described a developer incentive program, though promised that more will be revealed at Pico’s announcement next month at AWE Europe. A price for the Neo 4 Pro was not given, but prices for the standard Pico 4 was listed at $415. That’s only $15 more than the Quest 2.

I’m afraid that that price is via a currency converter. Pico has once again stopped short of rolling out consumer support to the States. While this headset is available for preorder in Europe as of last Friday, there’s still no public launch date in other markets.

There’s one other note worth pointing out. Pico’s last headset was the Pico Neo 3. The Neo line has been Pico’s 6DoF line, while they also had a 3DoF line called the “Goblin” or, simply, the “G” line. Erasing “Neo” suggests that Pico is going all in on 6DoF. And, why shouldn’t they, if they can fit such robust specs into a lightweight and affordable headset?

“We believe VR is the next real wave of innovation,” said Zhou in closing. “It will touch the lives of billions and change how we see and experience our world.”

A Vision Across the Sea

There’s not a lot left to say. This is more or less everything that we know and a couple of things that we wish we knew. A few select partners already have their hands on the Pico 4. We’d just like to see it, and we’d like to see it in America.

Jon Jaehnig
the authorJon Jaehnig
Jon Jaehnig is a freelance journalist with special interest in emerging technologies. Jon has a degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University and lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If you have a story suggestion for Jon, you may contact him here.