Can Pico's new VR headsets compete with Meta's Quest 2?

Pico, owned by TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, looks like it might try to challenge Meta’s Quest 2 and Quest Pro VR headsets in the U.S.

Pico, a subsidiary of TikTok-owner ByteDance, looks like it has a lineup of new VR headsets to rival Meta, according to new FCC filings spotted by Protocol last week.

Quest-likes — The “Pico 4” and “Pico 4 Pro” mentioned in the filings are standalone VR headsets with inside-out tracking not unlike the Quest 2. They’ll apparently both have white finishes, two controllers, and in the case of the Pico 4 Pro, eye tracking that could put it in line with the features of Meta’s upcoming Meta Quest Pro.

The inside of a Pico 4.Pico / FCC

Pico, so far, hasn’t released VR hardware in the U.S. — it only just recently started selling the Pico Neo 3 Link in Europe — but a look at FCC filings and recent reports of the company staffing up in the U.S. could mean a splashy North American launch is on the way.

Two Problems — Besides the usual issues of manufacturing physical goods, the biggest hurdle to launching a new piece of VR hardware in the U.S. is Meta. The company has reportedly sold nearly 15 million Quest 2s, and one of the main ways it’s done that is by basically selling them at a loss. Meta is totally fine only charging $299 for the Quest 2 if it helps make its metaverse plans easier to pull off. Pico and ByteDance might not be in the position to do the same, and they might not have the app store to back it up.

The other issue is that the popularity of TikTok has made ByteDance a target of scrutiny for lawmakers around the world, and particularly in the U.S., where access to U.S. customer data — especially who has it — is an ongoing concern. TikTok engineers reportedly had access to U.S. customers information as early as this January, despite claims from ByteDance that all information was to be stored domestically. Could the same be true of whatever a Pico headset captures of your eyes or face?

Uphill battle — There’s no evidence as of yet to suggest TikTok, Pico, or ByteDance has anything more nefarious planned than the average Silicon Valley company. Meta hopes to use what it can learn about your eyes and face to better target ads, after all. But if the Pico 4 does come out in the U.S. — and I hope it does — it’ll have an uphill battle to become nearly as popular as the Quest 2.