Pico, the Chinese startup acquired last year by TikTok parent company ByteDance, has a new virtual reality headset on the way. The Pico 4, which will retail from €429 (about $425) in several European and Asian countries, is described as a reasonably well-rounded yet affordable option for gaming and passive entertainment. A limited pre-order opens in August, with general pre-orders starting in October and the device shipping on October 18.
ByteDance teased news of its new headset earlier this week, and the device largely resembles previous Pico products, with a self-contained standalone design that can also connect to a PC for high-end VR. But the Pico 4 is smaller and lighter than the Pico Neo3 Link which debuted in May, weighing 295 grams without the strap and 586 grams with it. It uses the same Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 processor but beefed up 8GB memory and a high resolution display with 2160 x 2160 pixels per eye. It also comes in two possible storage sizes instead of one: a 128GB model for €429 and a 256GB model for €499 (about $492). There’s a battery that offers three hours of use and – as with the previous Pico headset – is built into the rear strap of the headset to balance it out.
Although some Pico headsets have been shipped to the US, this is not yet on the public roadmap for the Pico 4. It will launch in Japan, Korea and 13 European countries including the UK, France , Germany, Spain and Italy. (Prior to its general pre-order and retail release, members of the Pico Neo3 Link beta program will enjoy an early pre-order period starting September 23 in these countries.) The headset will be officially announced for the Chinese market on September 27 and it will roll out to Singapore and Malaysia later this year. That said, the headset has appeared in FCC regulatory documents, so a US version seems very plausible.
Leland Hedges, Managing Director of Pico EMEA, describes the Pico 4 as a “first VR headset” for a range of new users, geared towards a combination of gaming, fitness (including a fitness tracking system also available on the Neo3 Link), and video. It works with SteamVR on PC and a dedicated Pico app store, and Pico is also launching a social environment called “Pico Worlds” in 2023. Following the acquisition, there’s also limited integration with TikTok: you can optionally connect your TikTok account with the Pico video app to watch short videos in the headset.
If this all sounds familiar, it should: ByteDance implicitly positions the Pico 4 as an answer to Meta’s entry-level Quest 2. As you can see with the comparison here, the Pico Neo 3 Link was already in the same rough spec ballpark as the Quest 2 and the Pico 4 cost about the same as a Quest 2 after a Meta price hike in July. Although Pico has been making standalone headsets longer than Meta, updates like a fitness center and Pico Worlds (a clear equivalent of Meta’s Horizon) are newer additions that mirror Quest’s functionality. Like the Quest 2, the Pico 4 will offer manual tracking, following an update shortly after release. The Pico 4 is also being announced a few weeks before Meta’s Connect event, where Meta is expected to release its new Project Cambria headset.
The vanilla Pico 4 is not in the same league as Cambria, which has advanced features including internal cameras for eye tracking. “We think for the type of consumer market we’re targeting today – who’s that first-time user who really cares about ease of use, accessibility and price – and to keep things simple for our developer community, many of whom will be working with Pico devices for the first time, we are opting for the Pico 4 as our primary consumer product,” says Hedges.
But ByteDance will be will later release a more expensive version of the headset that includes eye tracking cameras, known as Pico 4 Pro in China and Pico 4 Enterprise in other markets. It’s similar to its previous headsets, which offered the feature as an additional upgrade. And that suggests that Pico is moving in the same direction as Meta – even if it hasn’t cracked the global market in the same way yet.