ByteDance could once again come to Meta’s lunch if reports that it’s gearing up to release two new Pico 4 VR headphones are true.
The main (read: only) name in VR right now is Meta, thanks entirely to the hugely popular Oculus Quest 2. While we believe the Valve Index to be the best VR headset in the world, the Quest 2 still packs a punch and costs less than half what the Index does — and it’s even cheaper if you consider not needing a VR-ready PC to run Meta’s standalone device.
A new competitor appears to be ready to take down the Meta a pin or two, however.
Pico has been on the VR scene for some time, but so far its consumer efforts have mostly focused on China – where its parent company ByteDance is headquartered. There was the Pico Neo 3 which was released in the UK and the rest of Europe in April of this year, but it hasn’t been very successful yet. However, we could see the brand become a more well-known name when its leaked Pico 4 headphones finally dropped.
According to a recent FCC filing – the US Federal Communications Commission – Pico is apparently gearing up to release a new Pico 4 device as well as a Pico 4 Pro in the US (via Protocol). Based on the filing, the two headphones appear to share a lot of similarities, with the main difference being eye tracking and face tracking, which are exclusive to the Pro version.
Adding more fuel to the fire is a follow-up leak that reportedly revealed what the new controllers will look like. Images of someone familiar with the project were shared by ScarredGhostrevealing a pair of rather sophisticated looking gadgets.
The controllers share many similarities with those used by Meta’s Quest 2 – such as nearly identical button placements – but what appears to be tracking rings have turned into handguards that wrap from top to bottom of the device. In contrast, the Quest 2’s tracking rings – which allow VR headsets to track the movement of controllers – are placed on top of each controller.
See the photos below to compare:
Image 1 of two
While these leaked images look convincing, we have to remember to take all 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.
With more and more details escaping into the wild, it probably won’t be long before any company reveals something about Pico 4.
The news of a new rival standalone headset released in the US couldn’t come at a worse time for Meta.
Thanks to production cost increases caused by inflation, Meta has just raised the price of its Oculus Quest 2 headphones. The Quest 2 128GB is now priced at $400 / £400 / AU$630 (up from 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 is no longer a cheaper 64GB model for people to buy, meaning the Quest 2 is more expensive than ever for new users.
In addition, Meta has just announced a drop in ad sales (opens in new tab) this financial quarter – the first time there has been a decline in ad revenue. It follows reports earlier this year where Meta revealed that Facebook saw its monthly active users drop in the last quarter of 2021 compared to the previous quarter – another first for the company.
Also, while Meta still hosts many of the best VR games on its Quest 2 headset, the recent cancellation of Splinter Cell VR has made its hardware game lineup a little weaker.
If the Pico 4 can capitalize on this moment of vulnerability for the monarch of the VR space – by releasing a cheaper or more powerful headset at a similar price to the Quest 2 – it could be the first suitable contender for the VR Throne.
Though Meta probably doesn’t want to go down without a fight – especially against ByteDance. Pico’s parent company is the same company that is supporting TikTok, the hugely popular social media platform.
TikTok’s meteoric rise above its rivals has forced Meta to rethink its entire social media empire. It recently updated Instagram to make it much more similar to TikTok – however, the change was quickly reversed after many of the platform’s biggest celebrity users regretted the change to its millions of followers.
We’ll have to wait and see if Meta can defeat ByteDance’s potential VR breakthroughs. However, with him clearly drawing up plans to take on TikTok and still working on a new VR headset (codenamed Project Cambria) that could launch later this year, it’s clear that Meta isn’t going to go down without a very real fight.