Virtual reality headsets must find the sweet spot between being comfortable and being powerful, finding creative ways to support the weight of all of those internal components along with the screen(s) and shell itself.
And the Pico Neo, from Chinese startup Pico VR, might have one of the smartest solutions to date: the processor and other chips are actually housed within the tethered gamepad. The Android-powered headset still has a fair bit of hardware within the shell, including a pair of screens, but offloading some of the components to the controller should save some face-mounted heft.
Given the presence of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, the Pico Neo technically falls within the realm of mobile VR, even without a proper phone inside, but at least it has some strong components. A Snapdragon 820 system-on-a-chip powers the device, with an Adreno 530 GPU and 4GB RAM - in other words, it's pretty much on par with flagship smartphones in terms of specs.
Inside, you'll find two 3.81in AMOLED displays running at 1200x1080 apiece with a 90Hz refresh rate, and the Neo promises a 102-degree field of vision. It also has a pair of 720p cameras attached for pass-through viewing, plus the gamepad has a touchpad on the back in addition to physical controls and motion sensors.
The 5,000mAh battery pack promises up to three hours of gaming or video playback, with QuickCharge 3.0 capabilities included, plus the Pico Neo has 32GB internal storage as well as support for microSD cards.
There's also a TrackingKit bundle, which appears to be offered separately, and it includes PlayStation Move-like motion controllers and a pair of tracking cameras. In fact, the headset itself looks very similar to Samsung's Gear VR, so between the shell and the motion controllers, it seems a bit of inspiration has been pulled from notable sources.
The Verge says the set with the Pico Neo headset and standard controller will sell for about US$550, although it's unclear what kind of content will be playable on the device. It won't run Gear VR games, so that leaves, what, Cardboard apps? The hope that the Neo will cultivate its own VR app ecosystem?
There's another surprising option: the headset will reportedly also be sold separately for about US$300 without the controller, allowing it to be used with a PC. Paired with a powerful enough PC, it could be a lower-cost option for anyone who doesn't want to spend big on an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive - although, again, it's unknown what kind of software can utilise it.
However, it's currently unclear whether the headset will be released internationally when it debuts in late June. Stay tuned: maybe it'll be an under-the-radar option for PC players.