Images appearing to show new ringless Pico controllers were shared on Chinese social media.
A Chinese source tells us the two images appeared on Baidu Tieba, an online forum they say is somewhat analogous to Reddit.
The existing Pico 4 controllers each have a Pico system button with a colored ring icon, red on the left one and purple on the right one. The purple ring icon is clearly visible on a button in the same spot in the controllers in the leaked images.
Unlike the Pico 4 controllers though, the leaked controllers have no tracking ring. On most VR controllers the rings have infrared LEDs underneath the plastic in a predefined constellation which the headset cameras track to determine the controller's position in space.
There have been three approaches shipped in VR controllers to get rid of the tracking ring - but I suspect there's only one Pico 5 could realistically use.
(1) Electromagnetic Tracking: Pico Neo 2 and Magic Leap 1 tracked their controllers without cameras at all. Each controller generated an electromagnetic signal, which a receiver module in the headset measured to determine its position. However, these EM controllers exhibited noticeable jitter and latency, leading both Pico and Magic Leap to ditch EM years ago.
(2) Onboard Inside-Out Tracking: Meta's Touch Pro controllers (included with Quest Pro) and Magic Leap 2's controller use an onboard mobile chipset and built-in tracking cameras to perform inside-out tracking, determining their position in space completely independently of the headset. But this approach drives up the cost of the controller significantly, and there are no cameras visible in either of the leaked Pico images.
(3) Under-Face LEDs: Meta's new Touch Plus controllers included with Quest 3 have the IR LEDs along the edges of the face rather than on a separate ring. While this alone would lead to frequent occlusion issues, Quest 3 also constantly runs hand tracking alongside controller tracking and fuses the inputs together. ByteDance has been "inspired" by Meta's designs and approaches in the past, and this seems like the most likely approach Pico 5 would take too.
ByteDance has however shifted its content funding away from games that don't support controller-free hand tracking. That might suggest Pico 5 could ship without these controllers, with the company selling them as an optional accessory instead.