ByteDance could join Meta again for lunch if reports that it’s gearing up to launch two new Pico 4 VR headsets are true.
The most important (read) name in VR right now is Meta, thanks entirely to the hugely popular Oculus Quest 2. While we think the Valve Index is the best VR headset out there, the Quest 2 still packs a punch and costs less than half the price of the Index – and even cheaper considering you don’t need a VR-capable PC to run Meta’s standalone device.
However, a new competitor seems poised to take Meta down a stick or two.
Pico has been on the VR scene for a while, but so far its consumer efforts have been mostly focused on China — where its parent company ByteDance is based. There was the Pico Neo 3, which launched in the UK and the rest of Europe in April this year but hasn’t garnered much attention yet. However, we could see the brand becoming a more household name when the leaked Pico 4 headsets finally drop.
According to a recent FCC filing – the US Federal Communications Commission – Pico appears to be preparing to launch a new Pico 4 device as well as a Pico 4 Pro in the US (via the Protocol). Based on the filing, the two headsets seem to share a lot of similarities, with the main difference being eye-tracking and face-tracking, which are exclusive to the Pro version.
Adding fuel to the fire is a follow-up leak that allegedly revealed what the new controllers will be like. Images shared by SkarredGhost from someone familiar with the project revealed a pair of rather nifty looking phones.
The controllers share many similarities to those used by Meta’s Quest 2 – such as near-identical button placements – but what appear to be tracking rings have morphed into handguards that wrap around the handset from top to bottom. In contrast, the Quest 2’s tracking rings, which allow VR headsets to track controller movement, are located on top of each controller.
For comparison see the following pictures:
picture 1 from 2
While these leaked images look compelling, we must remember to take any rumors with a pinch of salt. Until Pico or ByteDance make an official announcement, we won’t know for sure what’s being worked on.
However, as more and more details escape into the wild, it probably won’t be long before both companies reveal something about the Pico 4.
News of a new competing standalone headset launching in the US couldn’t come at a worse time for Meta.
Thanks to inflation-driven increases in production costs, Meta just increased the price of its Oculus Quest 2 headsets. The 128GB Quest 2 is now $400 / £400 / AU$630 (was $299 / £299 / AU$479) and the 256GB version is now $500 / £500 / AU$790 ( instead of $399 / £399 / AU$639). While the 128GB headset has returned to the price it originally launched in 2020, there’s no longer a cheaper 64GB model for people to buy, meaning the Quest 2 is more expensive for new users than ever is.
On top of that, Meta also just announced a slump in ad sales (opens in new tab) this fiscal quarter — the first time there has been a decline in advertising revenue. It follows reports earlier this year in which Meta revealed that Facebook saw its monthly active users decline quarter-on-quarter in the final quarter of 2021 — another first for the company.
While Meta still hosts many of the best VR games on its Quest 2 headset, the recent cancellation of Splinter Cell VR has somewhat weakened its hardware’s gaming offering.
If the Pico 4 can capitalize on this moment of vulnerability for the monarch of the VR space – by launching either a cheaper headset or a more powerful one at a similar price point to the Quest 2 – then it could be the first real contender for VR -Throne.
Although Meta probably doesn’t want to give up without a fight – certainly not against ByteDance. Pico’s parent company is the same that powers TikTok, the hugely popular social media platform.
TikTok’s meteoric rise over its rivals has forced Meta to reconsider its entire social media empire. It recently updated Instagram to make it much more like TikTok — however, the change was quickly reversed after many of the platform’s biggest celebrity users lamented the change to their millions of followers.
We’ll have to wait and see if Meta can hit back at ByteDance’s potential VR advances. However, with Meta clearly developing plans to take on TikTok and still working on a brand new VR headset (codenamed Project Cambria) that may launch later this year, it’s clear that Meta isn’t without a very real fight will go down.
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