ByteDance Buys Startup Pico, Virtual Reality Headset Maker

TikTok parent company ByteDance has acquired startup Pico, which, according to IDC, was the third largest virtual reality headset manufacturer worldwide in Q1 2021, with shipments growing 44.7. percent year-over-year. The purchase marks ByteDance’s first step into virtual reality and the company said that Pico’s “comprehensive suite of software and hardware technologies, as well as the talent and deep expertise of the team, will support both our entry to the VR space and long-term investment in this emerging field.”

CNBC reports that, “in March, ByteDance acquired a major mobile gaming studio called Moonton for a reported $4 billion, as it looks to expand into gaming,” so the purchase of Pico “could pit it against Facebook’s Oculus VR division.” Some speculate that Apple, which purchased VR company NextVR last year, could also “be working on its own VR headsets.”

The Verge reports that, “Pico is known for its Neo lineup of standalone virtual reality headsets, most recently the Pico Neo 3 … [and] it caters to both consumer and professional customers.” The consumer-facing Neo 3 “launched exclusively in Asia … [but] Pico is slowly expanding its market, with the business-ready Neo 3 Pro and Neo 3 Pro Eye set for a North American and European release as well.”

The Verge notes that, “the Pico acquisition seems unlikely to mix with ByteDance’s TikTok service in the near future … [and] it’s also not clear how the acquisition might affect Pico’s rollout plans.”

UploadVR reports that ByteDance did not reveal whether it “will be growing Pico’s business outside of the Chinese market,” although the enterprise-focused Pico Neo 3 Pro and Neo 3 Pro Eye are slated to be sold in North America and Europe.

“All the same, a company the size of ByteDance — which has seen huge success with TikTok — investing in VR could present the first significant competition to Facebook’s Oculus Quest,” it says, noting that, “other companies like Sony, Valve and HTC all make great VR headsets, but they’re either tethered to more expensive machines like PCs and consoles, or exclusively sold to the enterprise market.”

UploadVR adds that the Neo 3 “specs are very close to that of the Oculus Quest 2, and the headset even has some of the same games that feature on that device where it’s sold in China.”