Written by Ian Van Landuyt on March 2, 2021 · 6 min read

Business headset heads-up: Pico finishes the Quest

Business headset heads-up: Pico finishes the Quest

The ideal VR headset for business is standalone, lightweight and difficult to damage by the average user. Some high-end virtual reality solutions, like the HTC Vive Pro, are enterprise-designed from the ground up. While these expensive VR headsets are great for one-off showcase events, the need for more affordable pieces of kit is more pressing in corporate contexts. Customizable and business-friendly headsets are of the essence in providing scalable immersive experiences in showrooms, at fairs and in the workplace.

Until recently, the Oculus Go and Oculus Quest were the obvious choices for most corporate use cases. With Oculus owner Facebook’s privacy-unfriendly grip on users becoming tighter by the day, however, we’ve had to reconsider our position to avoid complete vendor lock-in and dependence in the long term. We’ve rounded up our expert’s findings to shed some light on the current conundrum of selecting the right business VR headset.

Replacing the Oculus Go

To say that the VR industry is a fast-moving one would be stating the obvious. With improved spec sheets and new features at every new headset launch, our developers, art directors and architects are always exploring the boundaries of the latest tech that comes our way.

For a long time, Facebook’s Oculus Go was our (no pun intended) go-to device for 360° video experiences. The Go’s dependable and sturdy build in combination with its reliable 3DoF tracking provided a dependable platform for immersive video experiences. It came with a single controller and was highly affordable. An ideal candidate for events that require a no-hassle set-up, for example at corporate fairs or presentations.

With the Oculus Go now discontinued, the need for a worthy all-round and corporate-worthy alternative arose. The natural successor would have been the Quest 2, which provides a smooth continuation within the Oculus ecosystem. However, we weren’t too keen on a few of the obvious challenges Facebook is increasingly bestowing upon developers and users alike.

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Escaping Facebook’s clutches

While we’ve always been very happy with the performance of the Oculus Go and its bigger brother, the Oculus Quest, we’ve felt increasingly uncomfortable with the path Facebook has chosen when it comes to privacy. The news about the mandatory use of a Facebook account for everyone who buys the Quest 2 caused quite a stir in the VR community, but it should hardly come as a surprise. Facebook’s business model is built around farming its users for their data, and it makes perfect sense. Less widely reported, but perhaps even more telling, was the news that owners of Oculus’ previous bestseller headset, the original Quest, will be forced next year to link their Facebook account to their device. This approach allows Facebook to capitalize on the data insights it acquires, in turn allowing for incredibly competitive pricing – probably even below manufacturing cost. On a consumer level, this strategy is defensible. Cheap technology in combination with a bespoke subscription – or a data sell-out – might even be preferred by most private consumers.

VR Headset as a Service?

For enterprise-level experiences, however, the argument for a price-privacy tradeoff simply doesn’t hold true. The question remains as to what extent one actually owns the device they bought. We’d be incredibly reluctant to recommend our clients to link up their Facebook accounts – which are private by default – to headsets intended for corporate use. We don’t endorse companies that farm their users for their data – especially not when these data are sensitive. Potential data breaches add to the danger, and we’re having none of it.

In addition, Facebook reserves the absolute right to monitor its user behaviour and restrict or ban accounts. While this is a perfectly defensible position considering Facebook’s wider strategy of anti-abuse measures, it’s not unthinkable that business owners might see their Facebook account – and subsequently their Oculus Quest device – deactivated for a misinterpreted or falsely reported comment or image post on their private profile.

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Pico G2 4K and Neo 2: improved and approved

After assessing the alternatives, we decided upon two corporate-ready, future-proof VR headsets: the Pico G2 4K and the Pico Neo 2. They provide 3 and 6 Degrees of Freedom (DoF), respectively.

Pico is a Chinese headset manufacturer that has been around since 2015. Its mission is straightforward and focuses on standalone, affordable headsets that cater to both end consumers and organizations alike. Playing around with Pico’s most popular models, we particularly liked three of their key features:

  • Kiosk Mode
  • Developer features and customizability
  • Offline availability

Kiosk mode

Through Pico’s developer mode, our technical specialists can easily toggle a convenient kiosk mode. This allows the headset to run just one single app, such as an immersive video or a specially developed workplace VR game. This minimizes client or user error and allows for a true pick-up-and-go experience.

Developer features and customizability

Our team can easily customize the headset’s environment and install third-party apps that haven’t been formally vetted by Pico’s own app store. This also allows us to set up the Pico headsets for remote access by our developers, which is useful if we want to push app or video updates to headsets that have been distributed to customers.

Offline functionality

The G2 4K and Neo 2 are perfectly fine with running in offline mode. This stands in contrast to some other competitors, such as the Oculus Rift, which requires an internet connection to start any app. This ostensibly basic feature is particularly handy in office or conference contexts where wi-fi might be unreliable or unavailable altogether.

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Eye tracking with Pico Neo 2 Eye

The Pico Neo 2 is also available in a more expensive Eye edition. As its name indicates, this VR headset adds eye tracking as a key feature – something which the Oculus Quest 2, its direct competitor, lacks. The integrated eye-tracking chip is provided by Tobii, the Sweden-based industry leader in the space. This technology increases image frame rates and improves visuals through the use of foveated rendering. Perhaps more importantly in a business context, the additional data gathered from eye tracking allows our developers to gain insight into user behaviour. We can then use this info to make changes to training environments, videos or immersive experiences and pass on more in-depth feedback to our clients.

 

No Oculus, no problem

Overall, we’re confident that Pico’s VR headset range – including the upcoming Neo 3, the aptly named successor to the Neo 2 – will be our go-to solution to create immersive experiences that captivate and convert. Our recent Ford Mustang Mach-E case turned out to be an excellent litmus test – one that the G2 4K passed with flying colours.

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