The Pico 4 headset is the lowest price VR device and plenty powerful enough for the Meta Quest 2 we’ve seen so far. Screenshot: Pico/ByteDance
Meta is terrified of TikTok’s dominant presence in the social media market, and now it looks like the company behind the app, ByteDance, is coming into the Metaverse for Meta’s own interest with a headset that comes closest in price. of the Quest 2 .
Bytedance’s VR subsidiary, Pico, introduced the Pico 4 in an English-language livestream on Thursday, which was equally cringey and surprising — mainly because of how much it seems to be chasing Meta. The device costs $425 (€429) for the 128 GB version and $492 (€499) for the 256 GB version.
Most importantly, though, the device will only launch outside its home country in Japan, Korea and 13 countries in Europe, including the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. The Chinese market will get its own announcement on September 27, and full pre-orders will begin on October 18. The Verge noted that the headset could eventually release in the US, based on FCC registrations.
The Pico 4 runs on an 8-core, 2.84GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 processor, according to the product specs page. Given that Meta already has a contract with Qualcomm for custom chipsets, it will be interesting to see how powerful this device will be compared to future Quests. Otherwise, the Pico 4 has a pretty solid 4,320 x 2,160 resolution (of course, that’s 2,160 pixels per eye). The two 2.56-inch LCD screens have a refresh rate between 72Hz and 90Hz.
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The headband is just a single strap, but Pico promotes balancing the weight of the device thanks to the 5300mAh battery that sits behind the head. The controllers of the device are also quite interesting. The loops used by the headset to track positioning are angled in front of the palms rather than round or in front of the hands. The four buttons used in most modern games are shared between both controllers.
But Pico also advertises that you don’t have to use controllers for everything, as the device has hand-tracking capabilities. Of course, the company didn’t show this feature in action. The Quest 2 also has hand tracking.
Last year, ByteDance bought out Pico for an undisclosed amount. Pico was ranked as one of the biggest makers of VR headsets. It was a deal that Facebook mirrored when it bought Oculus in 2014. Even then, we speculated that the TikTok owner could have set himself up with a showdown with his rival in the social media space, and it seems that with its announced specs and price, the company is ready to make a statement.
Meta recently increased the price of both the 128GB and 256GB Quest 2 models by $100, so Pico 4 now sits comfortably against the $399 Quest headset.
But what can make the difference here is the software available for the device. Pico makes little mention of which games its system will support, instead advertising its own sports programming and video content. Pico showed off a number of upcoming games, including The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners Retribution and Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom, among other VR classics like Gorn, and the company promised more VR games over time. the Pico store.
Pico seems to go right after Meta and his metaverse with his ‘Avatar System’. Pico’s general manager Leland Hedges showed off his own rather skinny and plastic-looking avatar, but apparently this avatar will be used in multiple applications, including “Pico Worlds,” the company’s own answer to Meta’s Horizon Worlds. The company also boasts of its device’s ability to track facial muscles reproduced on players’ avatars.
“He really looks like me, doesn’t he,” Hedges said during the livestream in a very stiff and awkward way. Horizon Worlds recently became the butt of a lot of jokes about how bad it looks, to the point where CEO Mark Zuckerberg had to come out and tell everyone that his own avatar won’t look like a dead doll forever after enough graphic updates. .
Pico also snips Meta before the company can announce its upcoming Meta Quest Pro, which Zuckerberg recently said would be unveiled in October at the annual Connect conference. We still don’t know what kind of pricing model for the device was once called Project Cambria, though some leaks on it have suggested it could cost upwards of $800, likely putting it around other mid-to-high-tier headsets. positioned. Pico will also presumably be working on a Pro model with eye-tracking, although we don’t know much about it at the moment.
But what should also not go unmentioned is that ByteDance is not the best company when it comes to people’s private data. It has been surrounded by scandal in recent months after leaked internal audio stated that user data could be seen by Chinese government officials. All this proprietary focus on the internal store makes it somewhat worrisome.
At the same time, patents filed by Meta and revealed by The Financial Times have already revealed the US company’s own potential plans to sell facial expressions and more to advertisers. It’s a shame that two big companies with a long history of pledging user data are also trying to be the biggest players for devices that have the ability to track everything else about our lives, including our movements.