ByteDance appears ready to make a splash in the U.S. virtual reality market and is expanding the presence of its Pico VR unit on the West Coast, as per recent job listings. The Beijing-based ByteDance purchased Pico in August 2021, and now has more than 40 open positions posed for operations in San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. According to Pico’s website, the company makes “best in class” wireless VR headsets, and in addition to the U.S. has operations in Europe, China and Japan. Many of the current job listings are for a content division called Pico Studios.
The expansion is geared toward “content licensing as well as marketing its hardware to U.S. consumers,” writes Protocol, noting “ByteDance has also been approaching VR content producers” for buy-in on its experiences. Pico is also seeking to fill some tech posts related to hardware and R&D for both hardware and software, as well as looking for a head of consumer sales to oversee U.S. marketing for all Pico products.
Protocol describes Pico as “one of a number of Chinese VR startups with a promising product but little if any chance to bring it to Western audiences before ByteDance acquired it,” because it is “very hard to compete with the Quest 2, especially if you don’t have a Meta-sized checkbook. Pico previously had a small team in the U.S. but was primarily focused on enterprise sales outside of China.”
Prior to being acquired by ByteDance, “Pico was the third-largest virtual reality headset maker globally in the first quarter of 2021, with shipments growing 44.7 percent year-on-year, according to IDC,” CNBC reported in a 2021 article that contextualized an increasingly active global VR sector.
“Pico Interactive has recently taken a significant step outside of Asia with the release of its Neo 3 Link in European consumer markets, a €450 standalone headset that hopes to compete with Meta’s Quest 2,” reports Road to VR, referencing Protocol’s description of ByteDance “throwing ‘tons of money’ at VR developers to bring their games to the Neo 3 platform.”
If that’s true “it would essentially represent the biggest overt push by a company to break the Meta market monopoly on consumer VR standalones,” suggests Road to VR.
The Verge describes the flagship all-in-one Pico Neo 3 Link as having specs “similar to that of the 256GB Meta Quest 2 that costs $399 (as opposed to the $299 variant with 128GB). Both headsets have the same storage, 1832 x 1920 resolution per eye” and Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 chip.
The Neo headset also looks very much like the Quest. Its Euro price is equivalent to $472. ByteDance, The Verge reports, “certainly has the bandwidth to give it the push it needs to compete” in the U.S. with such mainstream VR headsets as the Quest 2, the HTC Vive Pro 2, Sony’s PSVR 2 and the privately held Valve Corp’s Valve Index.