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. Now Pico is aiming its sights on the US market too, as Protocol reports the China-based company has posted several US-based jobs there.

Pico, a subsidiary of TikTok parent ByteDance, is assembling a team on the US West Coast, which Protocol says has “a major focus on content licensing as well as marketing its hardware to U.S. consumers.”

ByteDance is also ostensibly courting VR developers, and is reportedly willing to splash “tons of money” for VR games and experiences, Protocol reports.

According to ByteDance’s job portal, there’s currently over said 40 job listings for Pico positions in the Bay Area, Seattle and San Diego, with many looking to fill positions related to the company’s AR/VR content producer, Pico Studios.

Listings include a head of Pico Studios, head of VR Game Strategy, head of Overseas Content Ecosystem, and operations manager. Technical roles related to VR hardware and software development and R&D are also on offer.

Image courtesy Pico Interactive

This isn’t really such a big surprise. Pico stated in October 2021 that it would put greater emphasis on its fleet of Neo 3 headsets outside of China, as they would be “built for businesses [and] be available in the West, including North America and Europe,” the company said then. This was only two months after the ByteDance acqusition which saw Pico go for a reported ¥5 billion RMB (~$775 million) sales price.

Late last month, Pico launched Neo 3 Link in Europe, a headset which straddles the PC VR and standalone headset segments by offering built-in PC streaming over either Wi-Fi 6, or tethered DisplayPort connection.

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To attract consumers, the company has essentially feature-matched a few notable Quest 2 specs with its Neo 3 Link, such as its Qualcomm XR2 chipset and ability to tether to a PC to play SteamVR content, albeit through DP 1.4 and not Quest 2’s USB-C. It also features a standard 256 GB storage and a 5,300 mAh battery located in the headset’s strap, the latter of which is similar to Quest 2’s Elite Battery Strap in terms of balance and ergonomics—at no added price.

Moreover, Pico Neo 3 Link supports a number of standalone VR games including SUPERHOT VR, Puzzling Places, After the Fall, Walkabout Mini Golf, Elven Table Tennis, and Demeo. If ByteDance is truly throwing “tons of money” at VR developers to bring their games to the Neo 3 platform, it would essentially represent the biggest overt push by a company to break the Meta market monopoly on consumer VR standalones.

It’s not certain whether Pico would indeed launch its Neo 3 Link in the US, as it may well be using the European market to test out general sentiment. Still, the headset is currently listed at $400 on the Neo 3 Link order page, which is the same price as a commensurately speced Quest 2. The company has insisted it hasn’t launched into the US consumer market yet though, so that price may not include taxes or import duties, so we’ll need to take it with a grain of salt for now until Pico makes its next move towords Meta’s home turf.

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  • Bob

    Changing the name to something else other than “Pico Neo 3” would be the first step to gaining mass market appeal. Coming from the company that named something “TikTok” you’d expect a drastically catchier name for their own VR hardware.

    • MeowMix

      Pico was originally founded under the company Goertek, which is also the partner manufacturer used by Oculus for the CV1, Quest1 and Quest2. Goertek was able to really accelerate their VR products with their Oculus/META partnership (some calling the Pico Neo 3 mostly a Quest2 clone with some notable alternative design features).

      Point being, ByteDance didn’t name the company Pico, that was done by Goertek. ByteDance only recently purchased Pico from Goertek.

      • Bob

        ByteDance had every opportunity to launch the product under an entirely new branding once the acquisition was done and dusted but they obviously didn’t.

        The word ‘Neo’ by itself is almost as effective as the ‘Quest’ but combining it with Pico in that order isn’t especially enticing. I’m in favor of a rebrand here.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          I really don’t see the problem. I think Pico is a great name, and pico neo is a good combination. At least better than Meta Quest.

          • xyzs

            Hum no.
            Meta is cooler than pico.
            Quest is more original than Neo.

          • Andrew Jakobs

            What’s more original to the Quest name then to the Neo name. And in the end, it’s only a name, and luckily it isn’t a long name.
            Certainly Meta is much MUCH worse as Pico.. Oculus was a beautiful name, but Meta is really ugly as hell.

          • xyzs

            We all preferred Oculus, that’s a general agreement (only Zuck and his ego don’t agree)

      • Pico as a company name’s OK, but “Neo 3” is out the window.
        Call it something catchy, like: “CoolGlasses” or whatever tf.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          You think? I think Neo is a good name for a VR headset, and it’s the third incarnation, so naming it Pico Neo3 makes perfectly sense. More sense than you keep using bold on every post you make. “Coolglasses” or anything like it would be an awful name.

      • d0x360

        I do, a really big problem and I’m not talking about the name

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      Yes. We live in a world where a simple name change can make or break.

      You mean like renaming all your XR ventures from an established brand like Oculus to Meta?

    • xyzs

      I agree totally.

      Already Pico is a very lame name, (especially since they make nothing tiny).
      Pico Neo 3 is terrible, it sounds like a educative toy for 3 years old kids.

      Just like shitfall meganex, (Panasonic’s VR division), bad marketing is a shame, especially if the products have potential.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      What’s wrong with the name? It’s the third Pico Neo headset. Or do you think the Quest 2 is a catchy name?

      • Jistuce

        I actually think “Quest 2” as a name kinda sucks, and Metabook could do better. On the other hand, I do recognize that the name “Quest” had significant brand recognition. I’d’ve still gone with “Super Quest”, but that’s probably a sign of my age more than anything else.

        I will also grant them a lot of credit for not just naming it “New Quest” or “Quest (model year)”. Kinda sad that is a bar to clear instead of just a given, but… it is what it is, I guess.

  • Jonathan Winters III

    With no access to the Oculus (Meta) store, this will be a hard sell considering all the Meta exclusives only available there, as well as the constant free OS upgrades/improvements by Meta for Quest 2. Perhaps the very small FB hater minority will purchase it. Which is less than 1% of the market.

    • Sven Viking

      If the other aspects are good enough, things like racing and flight sims and some professional tasks would benefit from the direct DisplayPort connection, as well as general PCVR for anyone willing to give up wireless.

      Overall, though, it seems like a hard sell to me too. Hopefully we get some sort of benefit from the competition at least. Even just the possibility that the hardcore anti-Facebook minority actually has somewhere else to go should put a bit more pressure on Facebook to avoid actions that increase the size of that minority.

    • Precisely! lol
      Sure, there’re dummy edgelords out there who’ll tell anybody who’ll listen
      that they “hate Facebook/Meta”. They just can’t bring themselves to accept
      the FACT that right now and into the foreseeable future, Meta rules the VR landscape. But do they hate Meta enough to spend $450 on an inferior HMD
      that has an equally inferior software library …? Of course they don’t.

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  • MeowMix

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned in all these articles, is whether the Geortek-META-Pico relationship is intact. I assume Goertek is still the manufacturing partner of the Quest2, but does that mean Pico (ByteDance) lost access to the tech sharing from Meta ? (thus, Pico’s tech advancements may wane as time goes on). Does Goertek manufacture BOTH META and Pico headsets ? Will META choose a different manufacturer for their future headset products ?

    Some context: Goertek, the manufacturing partner for Oculus, and the manufacturer of the Rift CV1, Quest1, and Quest2; they were the company that originally founded Pico. Goertek has since sold Pico to ByteDance.

    • XRC

      Goertek is OEM/ODM for a number of brands including the valve Index headset and controllers. Common for OEM to manufacture for competitors

      • Christian Schildwaechter

        The ODM part and all the other research done by Goertek also reduce the chance of Pico losing access to current XR tech. People always seem to assume that Facebook developed the Quest 2 from scratch and that Goertek now provides that tech to other companies too, when in reality it seems that the Quest 2 hardware is largely based on the Qualcomm XR2 reference HMD that was also designed in partnership with and built by Goertek (Facebook no doubt also contributing).

        What Meta really adds is mostly the software, not hardware, which gave them quite a head start, so others initially couldn’t easily clone the Quest 2, even though all the hardware was available. This has somewhat changed with Qualcomm and partners now providing a lot of the software stack necessary to build a complete XR HMD. And with research and development continuing at Qualcomm and Goertek, Pico most likely wouldn’t be cut off even if Meta decided to completely pull away from Goertek and manufacture the headsets somewhere else or themselves.

  • Christian Schildwaechter

    It’s not certain whether Pico would indeed launch its Neo 3 Link in the US, as it may well be using the European market to test out general sentiment.

    It would make no sense to release the DP lacking Pico Neo 3 instead of the Pico Neo 3 Link in the US. Even if other extra features like the better headstrap/battery/balance of the Neo 3 could technically give it a better price/performance ratio than the Quest 2, Meta still has a huge advantage with software titles, developer support and brand recognition. And with Chinese TikTok in the background not even those that really hate giving any data to Facebook/Meta might not be converted.

    The one group that is much more likely to be willing to switch is PCVR gamers. Those don’t care as much about the native titles, will welcome the better ergonomics, and could hugely benefit from being able to use their HMD both tethered via DP for the best quality/lowest latency, as well as untethered with compressed WiFi streaming. Going by April Steam survey numbers, there are at about 1.25mn Quest 2 owners that use it for PCVR gaming every month. Not too bad for now 10mn+ headsets, of which a number are already collecting dust.

    Cambria as a “professional” HMD might bring DP input, but for at least twice the price of the Neo 3 Link, so for a lot of PCVR gamers Pico may become the go-to solution for a budged VR HMD. Pico would have to be very stupid not to use this as a way to get their foot into the international consumer VR market, esp. since it is still questionable if they can lure over a significant amount of user that are only interested in standalone use, even with their new software initiative. The fact that Meta sells the Quest 2 basically at price means Pico cannot easily underbid them, so it has to provide some other benefit, and currently DP input is by far their best play.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      There is no Pico neo3 without DP. The only difference with the Pico neo3 link and the Pro is that the link already includes the DP cable, whereas with the Pro you had to buy it separately.

      • Christian Schildwaechter

        There has been a DP-less Pico Neo 3 available only in China since 2021-05, with prices initially starting at ~USD 390. They announced the Pico Neo 3 Pro and Pro Eye featuring DP input for Q3 2021 at the same time, with a price of USD 699 and USD 899 respectively. And only these were originally intended to be released outside of China targeting professional users.

        The Pico Neo 3 Link is basically the Pro targeting consumers outside of China at a significantly reduced price, now possible most likely due to Meta like subsidies thanks to money available after TikTok/ByteDance bought Pico in 2021-08.

        • Guest

          Doubt they will be subsidizing to benefit Steam.

          • Andrew Jakobs

            I agree with you on that, but let’s not forget, the Pico Neo 3 is still a standalone headset and people will also use it like that. A lot of people still don’t have a beefy PC/Wifi6 to enjoy the Steam streaming.

          • Christian Schildwaechter

            They are not subsidizing to benefit Steam. They are subsidizing to gain a part of the consumer VR market against Meta’s Quest 2, and they accept that they will lose some software sales to Steam, because the option to use Steam will get more people to buy their headset in the first place. It is a cost/benefit question, and with Pico starting from pretty much zero outside of China, the benefits of sending some revenue over to Steam by far outweigh the costs.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          A yeah, you’re right about the cheaper Neo 3 in China only.
          I don’t think it’s really subsidized, just like the Quest wasn’t as much subsidized as people here seem to believe (especially the 256GB version). But the Pico Neo 3 link does have some minor changes compared to the Pro, so I think they probably have a cheaper production process. Since they also only have one SKU it is cheaper to produce.

          • Christian Schildwaechter

            John Carmack during his Connect 2021 keynote:

            Like Mark said, we sell our headsets, you know, at a loss or break even, there is no profit in the headsets, so there is no way that a company could go and say “I want to make a budget headset, I’m going to undercut the prices here.” without wanting to be able to negotiate for a cut of the ecosystem revenue. That’s just kind of the way those things work.

            That would apply to the initial 64GB/now 128GB base model. I’d say that pretty clearly classifies as subsidized, esp. if you consider that FRL also generated a USD 1000 loss per year in 2021 for every single Quest 2 ever sold.

            The added flash on the larger model 256GB would only add USD 10-15 to the production cost, so the USD 100 higher sales price should lift it out of the “at loss or break even” zone. The same would apply to the Neo 3 Pro/Link, which should at least initially have been more expensive, simply because Meta can guarantee larger numbers and thus will get better prices. Pico certainly benefits from the production of the Quest now running since late 2000 and experience with previous Pico models, which (ignoring current component cost development) over time should increase efficiency and reduce cost, and the added flash and head strap probably don’t add up to USD 150 in production. We don’t know how much the DP-in adds, just that the XR2 doesn’t have this capability, so they have to integrate an additional controller capable of decoding display port signals.

            All in all it is usually much harder to get down to the price of the base model in consumer electronics, be it a Quest, a Steam Deck or a phone, while the added memory of larger models is sold at a significant premium. By skipping the base model, Pico should be less forced to subsidize and, being a much smaller Chinese company, had much lower initial costs. But considering that they are now selling for USD 449 what they initial intended to sell for USD 699 plus the cost of the tether (ignoring minor differences) before being bought, it is safe to assume that TikTok money allowed to offer the Neo 3 LInk at a much lower price or at all outside of China without Pico going broke immediately.

          • xyzs

            The loss of money in VR is not because of the headset costs… it’s because of their top notch employee pays, the rnd facilities and the companies they buy ( way too expensive like supernatural )

          • Andrew Jakobs

            The loss is only a couple of bucks, more in line with how consoles were sold.

  • Foreign Devil

    Unless this blows Meta out of the water.. I’d be reluctant to purchase anything from a Chinese (or other totalitarian country) company, especially when it is tracking everything about you in order to function.

    • Corellianrogue

      Actually you can use it in PC VR mode (and probably in standalone mode with SideQuest games once it becomes available for it) without having to use a Pico account so the only thing you’d have to log into is Steam or wherever your PC VR games are.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    Uhm, so you think the Quest 2 is also overpriced garbage.

  • ApocalypseShadow

    Interesting comments and takes on the possible release of Pico Neo I’m the US.

    There could be a name change to help sell it. But we’ve seen many names over the years that weren’t the best or considered catchy. PlayStation. Nintendo. Xbox. Atari. Coleco. Jaguar. 3DO. Saturn. Dreamcast. Wii. Seen many names over the years. But do those names really matter? Not fully no. It’s the **CONTENT** that matters. And the marketing, the word of mouth that sells a product full of content.

    I also find it funny with those that want competition in the stand alone area, but try to kill the competition with their words about data collecting before the product even has a chance to sell. We don’t know what they will collect because it’s not in America yet. And there’s no word dat that data is being collected with the release in Europe.

    But these same individuals purposely ignore that Facebook wants to win the stand alone race with a subsidized headset so that they can collect all your data to sell to others or figure out ways to sell products personally to you with your habits, movements, things you look at, okay, etc. No privacy concerns there./S

    Not having access to Facebook games is no big deal if it ends up having it’s own games to play. And, access to PC that seems better in its connection than Quest. With a large selection of PC VR software to choose from. And, hackers might even make it possible to play side Quest apps just like Quest.

    Let the competition commence. If the product turns out bad, it will fall off the market as any other failed product. But to target it before release says a lot about some individual’s comments.

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      TikTok’s initial data collection habits were so bad that they got into serious trouble with the Chinese government, so the prejudices are somewhat valid. The trouble back then obviously wasn’t about TikTok potentially leaking user data to the Chinese government, but TikTok respecting data privacy laws even less than Facebook.

      This has changed a lot since they also got into trouble with the US government, who weren’t primarily concerned about the data hoarding, but about the danger of Pico giving/being forced to give user data to the Chinese government. Threatened with TikTok (called Douyin in China) being banned in the US, ByteDance went quite some way to ensure compliance with US demands, including completely separating Chinese and international business and having all US data now handled by Oracle. Which themselves have been involved in a number of controversies due to being too close to the US government. During this process ByteDance also provided way more transparency on how they handle the data than Meta ever did.

      So if you are non-Chinese TikTok user, you can be pretty sure that your data will not be leaked to the Chinese government, but not that it will not be leaked to some other government. Competition is good, though VR users clearly value low hardware prices a lot higher than data protection, otherwise the HTC Focus 3 would sell a lot better compared to HMDs based on similar hardware, but subsidized by social networks, for which monetizing user data is always the business model.

      • ApocalypseShadow

        Since I don’t use TikTok, doesn’t matter much to me in that regard. Course, I don’t use Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or any of that. They’re not my thing.

        If the company *improved* their standards, there’s no point harping on something that hasn’t happened. We watch it sell or fail. If there’s any issue, we know what will happen to it: it will be pulled from the market. Story ends.

        There are those targeting it because of CCP. I live in the US. And we know things aren’t perfect here either without getting political. And it’s the US that still allows Chinese products to be manufactured and sold here. I’d buy American but pricing isn’t always good or the quality.

        But Facebook having no competition isn’t a good thing. And this has a better chance than any Kickstarter product. We should support it but also be cautious just like Quest or any product.

  • Tommy

    I’ll buy one if they come out with a cheaper 128gb for $299. I’m not paying $450 for a standalone.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Don’t count on a cheaper 128GB version as that just doesn’t make any sense. It’s cheaper to produce if there is only one SKU.

      • Tommy

        I agree, but if they do, I’m in.

  • 144Hz

    Finally, a good standalone headset without FB.

  • TechnoHunter

    Hopefully they can make it possible to get VR games on Oculus’s store that are exclusive and not on steam, because that would definitely be an Quest Killer. Looking forward to more news!!!

  • d0x360

    Can’t wait for the consequences on this one. It’s gonna be a real **** show. Source code for the OS has been… Viewed. There’s a switch inside that when flipped starts dropping payloads on the router, phones connected to the router and PC through direct connection or wifi where it uses a an undisclosed nVidia gpu exploit (900 series and newer). Lastly should any issue it exploits get fixed it takes seconds to download a new payload when available.