Pico Delays US Headset Launch Following TikTok Congressional Hearing
The Verge reported that ByteDance is halting its planned US launch of its headset Pico 4 due to the ongoing TikTok hearing at Congress.
ByteDance’s XR concern Pico Interactive had a massive booth at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco this week where it was promising a “treat” that would take users to a “Journey to Infinity”. In spite of the hype, the company did not make any major announcements, including the widely expected announcement of the launch of its Pico 4 headset in the U.S. The Verge’s senior editor Sean Hollister now reports that the company delayed the planned announcement and rollout of the headset in the US market due to the ongoing congressional hearing on TikTok, another ByteDance company. The Verge report quotes an unnamed Pico employee.
The Pico 4 is a standalone virtual reality headset that is poised to take on Meta’s dominance of the consumer VR hardware market segment, particularly in the US.
It was widely expected that ByteDance would announce the U.S. launch of the headset at the conference since last summer, the company went on a USD hiring spree.
Back then, Protocol had reported that the hiring spree would lead to a “major focus on content licensing” and the marketing of its hardware to consumers in the U.S.
The company is currently mum about its U.S. launch plans despite its hyped “save the date” countdown of a ‘Journey to Infinity’. At the GDC, ByteDance even laid out an elaborate and massive booth on the floor.
Pico doesn’t have a major Twitter presence, either. Its Twitter account has under 10,000 followers as of the time of writing. However, its initial tweet announcing the countdown and “a new journey” got tens of thousands of views. The XR community was expecting a major announcement from the ByteDance company which failed to materialize.
In for a treat at #GDC23? Come say hi at Booth S627, Moscone Center and take a dive into the #JourneytoInfinity with #PICO #PICO4 #VirtualReality #VR #GDC23 #JourneytoInfinity pic.twitter.com/Julujtyilc
— PICO XR (@PICOXR) March 22, 2023
ByteDance’s sister company TikTok has been facing congressional grill the past week with questions being raised about data privacy, government interference, harmful content, and the spread of misinformation. Given this backdrop, ByteDance probably deems it inappropriate to launch another product in the U.S. market at a time when it is facing considerable scrutiny.
With a financial war chest, market stability, and a capable device, Pico is probably the only XR hardware manufacturer capable of taking on Meta at this time. Pico is owned by the Chinese media giant ByteDance, the company behind TikTok, which, like Meta, brings the deep pockets required to subsidize new hardware and push it into a growing consumer market. Like Meta, ByteDance also has the ability to attract serious developers into its ecosystem.
The Pico 4 headset was launched in October 2022. It is competitively priced at just $455, about the same price as the 256GB Meta Quest 2 headset. The headset is already available in Europe, China, South Korea, Singapore, and Japan. It remains to be seen when or whether ByteDance will launch the headset in North America.