When ByteDance bought Chinese VR headset maker Pico a year ago, the message was clear: It’s betting that the immersive device would be where future generations spend most of their time consuming digital content. It’s a marriage reminiscent of Meta’s 2014 acquisition of Oculus, except the world is now in a different place with technological advancements that make VR headsets cheaper, less laggy, and more comfortable to wear.
The TikTok parent company has long strived to compete in a market dominated by Oculus’s consumer VR devices. When Meta launched Quest 2 in 2020, ByteDance was working on a confidential internal project to develop AR glasses, The Information reported. Pico’s product launch this week is a further indication of its ambition to challenge Quest, which has been enjoyed about two thirds of the global AR and VR market in the past two years.
The Pico 4, which starts at €429 (about $420 thanks to a strong dollar) for 128GB and ships to Europe, Japan and South Korea, excluding China, has been getting applause in the VR community. It Weighing just 295 grams without the straps, it can function as a standalone device, as well as attach to PCs for more advanced VR experiences. It uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 processor like Quest 2 does.
“It’s cheap and good quality, with specs that match Quest 2,” said Gavin Newton-Tanzer, host of the mixed reality conference AWE Asia.
“Was impressed with the weight, comfort, LCD screen, pancake lenses, color AR pass-through and controllers. All it needs now are some serious triple-A VR exclusives to get around to.” from Meta to get gamers interested,” writes a creator of VR content.
Just ‘matching’ to Quest 2’s specs doesn’t sound good enough, as the latter came out two years ago and became an instant hit. Pico not only has a lot to catch up on in terms of technology, but also in terms of content and branding.
“Oculus’ content ecosystem is more established and offers a better understanding of what consumers want,” said Newton-Tanzer. Popular rhythm game Beat Saber, for example, generated $100 million in revenue on Oculus Quest by October 2021.
Pico has a chicken-or-egg problem, the XR expert suggests. The user base across product lines is currently not large enough that top creators would devote themselves to creating games, videos, and other VR content exclusively for their platform. It reportedly sold 500,000 units last year, half of his goal. In contrast, Quest 2 shipped 10 million units between October 2020 and November 2021. But without premium content, Pico will have a hard time attracting users in a meaningful way.
“Many of the Chinese VR companies are acting too much like manufacturers and thinking purely about selling hardware without thinking too much about what people want to do with the product,” said Francis Bea, founder of Eleven International, a cross-border tech PR agency. “Pico has to fundamentally invest in great content and know how to brand the product before it is truly competitive.”
The good news is that Pico has established a strong position in China and does not face much competition in its home market. Oculus does not have an official presence in China, meaning users will have to go through the trouble of ordering a foreign version, get the Oculus app from a foreign app store, and access the global app ecosystem through a virtual private individual. network, such as Meta’s servers. blocked in China.
The tech split could give Pico time to test and learn in its home market before launching full steam ahead to the West. Expansion in the US is already underway as ByteDance started building a team for Pico on the west coastaccording to Protocol, with a focus on attracting talent in content, marketing and R&D.