Pico Interactive took to the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco this week with a massive booth, hyping the event as a “treat” that would be a “Journey to Infinity”. Strangely, there were no substantial announcements from the company there, however a report from The Verge now alleges Pico intentionally delayed its planned announcement of Pico 4’s US rollout due to increased pressure from US lawmakers on sister company TikTok.

Update (March 24th, 2023): The Verge’s senior editor Sean Hollister says in a brief report that a Pico employee told him the planned release of Pico 4 in the US was put on hold due to TikTok weathering a US congressional hearing this week. Both Pico and TikTok are owned by Chinese parent company ByteDance.

We’ve reached out to Pico for comment, and will update if/when we hear back. In the meantime, we’re labeling this a report since the company has yet to go on record. We’ve also included that information in the article below:

Pico, the creator of the Pico 4 standalone, is arguably one of the biggest untapped threats to Meta’s market supremacy in the consumer VR standalone segment. At least for now.

Owned by TikTok parent company ByteDance, many speculated that the China-based Pico was finally ready to announce the consumer launch of Pico 4 in the United States, a step that many (including us) have been waiting for following a US hiring spree last summer.

At the time, a Protocol report maintained the move would usher in “a major focus on content licensing as well as marketing its hardware to U.S. consumers.”

Image courtesy Pico

So, is Pico 4 coming to US consumers? We spoke to the company at GDC this week, and despite the flashy ‘save the date’ countdown to its ‘Journey to Infinity’ and a massive booth on the show floor, there’s simply nothing to report.

To boot, Pico’s Twitter presence isn’t very large—it has less than 10,000 followers at the time of this writing—but the initial countdown tweet promising to kick off “a new journey” managed to take the record for the company’s most-viewed tweet at more than 67,000 impressions. People were expecting something big from Pico at GDC, and it simply didn’t manifest.

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But timing is everything, it seems. This week US lawmakers hauled in TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew to testify before congress in a bid to crack down on the ByteDance-owned video platform, emphasizing the platform’s harmful content to children and the spread of misinformation. Adding fuel to the fire with the US release of its VR products likely isn’t in ByteDance’s best interests right now.

Pico is probably the only company right now with both a capable device and the market stability to directly compete with Meta, the undisputed champion of the consumer standalone segment with Quest 2. Under the wing of the Chinese ByteDance media empire, Pico not only has the sort of cash reserves to subsidize hardware, but also a growing ability to attract developer interest.

Launched in October 2022 and priced at €420 (~$455), Pico 4 is available across Europe, China and a number of APAC countries, including Japan, Singapore, and South Korea. The missing puzzle piece is undoubtedly a North American release.

We have boots on the ground at GDC this week, so make sure to check back on all things AR/VR as we dive into developer sessions and see everything on the show floor.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Mradr

    Dang! I was hoping it was the Pico 5. So far they been releasing new headsets every year on/around Oct. I know they will be switching to the new XR2Gen2 as well. Also the fact they want to come to the US would’ve been the perfect storm to make it happen.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      The pico 4 pro, or in china pico 4 gamers edition, already have eyetracking.

      • a

        But it’s not on sale

      • Mradr

        Yea, so the next logical step would to being it to the Pico 5 (non-pro)

    • Guest

      They’ve been stupid to copy Meta and Sony making sick games and increasingly expensive devices!

      • Mradr

        Device cost still has a pool of up to 800$ for a good chunk of VR users – is something you pay once for and move on. I think some companies are also seeing the truth at this point that simply going for the LCD doesnt mean you make more money either. As people that can’t really afford the headset more than likely never could really afford any price games either.

  • XRC

    BBC news this evening showing tiktok CEO being heavily grilled by Congress in the US. Politicians in many Western countries being ordered to remove the app from their phones. News presenter commented on deteriorating relationship between China and West, may prove difficult to launch Pico in US given current tensions?

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      Launching now would be a very bad idea. Someone on the Ars Technica forum had a suggestion with currently 96% upvotes regarding their article about congress grilling Chew:

      A more accurate title to the article would be “Congress Members Ask Barage of Idiotic Questions Proving They Don’t Understand The Internet.”

      They weren’t looking for answers, they were mostly stating their pre-existing opinion that TikTok comprises a national security risk. Everybody is pretty much ignoring the level of data security TikTok is providing with having Oracle store and handle all their US data and having them also review all procedures and data processing TikTok is doing inside the Oracle black box. This very expensive “Project Texas” venture was actually brokered by the US government, and is now rejected by members of congress because in theory some insider could sabotage it. So basically the unprecedented level of data security for US users is considered not enough, because it still involves humans and there could be Oracle employees with actual access to the data still leaking it to the CCP for reasons. Not sure how this is different from Meta employees potentially doing the same, only Meta never hired another company with close ties to the US government to check all their data handling in the first place.

      The amount of technical incompetence and hypocrisy shown during the hearing was mind boggling. Consensus among people more familiar with the issues (like the EFF and the Ars Technica Forum) is that what is needed to actually addressed the issues is a comprehensive data privacy legislation for all social media platforms, but there is very heavy lobbying going on to ensure that something like that would never pass congress.

      According to the EFF a TikTok ban probably wouldn’t fly, because it would immediately be shot down in court due to the complete lack of evidence for an actual threat needed to justify baring a communication platform. But with this being a very controversial topic at the moment, launching a potentially even more invasive VR platform from ByteDance would not only be met by a lot of political resistance, but also by a pretty much guaranteed shitstorm from people who bought into the whole national threat idea. Not the kind of PR Pico would be looking for to push the launch.

      • Mradr

        The government has a higher power than the courts if its in the name of defence of the country.

        • Christian Schildwaechter

          The supreme court has a higher power than the government if it’s in the name of defense of the constitution. In this case the first amendment, which prohibits the government from abridging freedom of speech/of the press. TikTok has 150mn users in the US, to legally shut down their communication channel will take a lot more than vague ideas of data potentially being leaked to the CCP, esp. if TikTok can demonstrate that they have taken measures that make that technically impossible for them in all cases except intended sabotage by an insider.

          The constitution is set in place to limit the power of the government and protect the citizens. Governments have tended to invoke “national security” to push through matters that would otherwise be unacceptable, but they can’t just make up arbitrary reasons and get away with them, except in countries without a proper separation of powers like many dictatorships, where the government controls the courts that should be independent.

          Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of reasons why people should avoid TikTok, mostly to protect their mental health, but most of these apply to all of social media. But targeting TikTok because the parent company is located in China and unavoidably has to interact with the CCP has nothing to do with these good reasons. Shunning the CCP for all its transgressions isn’t a bad idea either. But banning a social network used to freely communicate, and in TikTok’s case usually about much more mundane things than the ton of misinformation systematically pushed through Facebook and Twitter on a daily basis, for basically political reasons without ever providing any actual proof just legitimizes attempts to suppress media by authoritarian regimes that usually refer to similar evidence-free national security reasoning for shutting down critics.

          • Mradr

            To play fair, the constitution is for the people – to protect the people from the government. Nothing about it will protect the company it self. Far as I know the DoD also has the proof that the CCP has look at the data at least a few times in the past already. The laws in China are vastly different than they are in the US – so far – the CCP does control them and would have natural rights to the data. Even more so – while you right we have the freedom of press – nothing covers over seas network channels.

            China laws allows them “golden shares” of all companies. This means the CCP has the so call “insider” already.

          • Christian Schildwaechter

            That’s why I mentioned the 150mn US TikTok users, as it is their constitutional rights that would be hurt by banning the platform. TikTok themselves may go for other legal defenses like WTO rules prohibiting countries from discriminating against foreign companies that could compete with established local ones. Though these are the type of rules that governments routinely disregard by broadly referring to national security, no matter if it is about building aircrafts, putting 30% tariffs on solar panels and 50% on washing machines, or banning lip-synced user videos, as all of these are obviously very dangerous.

      • Cl

        I was reading up on what kind of info tiktok collects and I saw this “TikTok says it has never provided any U.S. user data to the Chinese government, nor would it do so if asked.”

        However that’s a lie because they have to give it to their government if they ask. That alone shows me they are untrustworthy. Also they can manipulate trending content just like Twitter did and that’s not something I’d want a foreign country to do.

        With how much our own government lies to us, I trust Chinese businesses even less because they are legally tied to their government and China isn’t known to care about people’s rights.

        • Christian Schildwaechter

          It’s actually not a lie, and they went out of their way to ensure that. The trick here is their “Project Texas” that cuts off TikTok employees from ever directly accessing non-public user data. They moved all the US user data into the US Oracle cloud, but while usually cloud computing still gives you full access, only Oracle can now see or access the TikTok data. TikTok then designs algorithms that analyze data and return reports about trending videos or recommendations for specific users, which are reviewed by Oracle and then run by Oracle on their cloud infrastructure, only reporting back the anonymized results, but never allowing to include or access personal user data. These algorithms will of course direct what people see and thus can be used for manipulation, but that is the inherent nature of any recommendation system or social network, not something you can stop without removing the very core functionality and rendering it mostly useless.

          This is quite an elaborate technical scheme to ensure that US user data cannot be leaked, much more complex than can be explained in a few sentences, and put in place especially to rebut any concerns regarding possible espionage. TikTok may be obligated by Chinese law to provide the CCP with personal user data on demand, so they made it technically impossible for themselves to comply to such demands. That’s far more than any other company has done, and something the US themselves continuously abuse when demanding EU user data stored in the EU from US companies despite EU law and safe harbor data agreements with the US prohibit exactly that. It’s like you giving all the keys to your storage unit to another person and never going in there yourself, only having that person fetch items from a predefined checklist for you, to guarantee that you can’t either see what is inside nor take anything from there.

          Oracle was picked due to the close relationship of their CEO to Donald Trump, who’s government started the investigation, and this is quite expensive for TikTok, who basically payed USD 1.5bn for the Oracle hosting, management and operations surveillance and data move. So it is mildly infuriating that people still blindly claim that all TikTok data will be leaked to the CCP, when TikTok in accord with the US government went through an enormous amount of trouble to create a system as watertight as possible. Only to be confronted with members of congress that don’t understand the difference between the TikTok app sending data from and to a phone via Wifi to show the requested information, and TikTok being able to undetected access all data on all machines connected to that Wifi network, or rejecting Project Texas because TikTok has no way to ensure that Oracle will not leak the data themselves.

          Blatantly ignoring all the extra levels of security put in place here hints that the whole argument about user data privacy is mostly a smoke screen. If they really cared about that, they would start with legislating what types of data social networks are allowed to collect and sell in the first place. Someone noted that it wouldn’t really make a lot of sense for the Chinese government to try to spy via TikTok, when they can simply buy that data via a third party from US companies, something the US government routinely does itself to work around their own laws preventing them from spying on US citizens.

          • Cl

            Unfortunately It’s hard for me to take their word for it. If china made them do it they would find a way. Besides, tiktok is cancer and bad for everyone. Sure there is some good content, but that doesn’t weigh out the bad.

          • Christian Schildwaechter

            Of course everybody has to decide for themselves whom to trust. A lot of Oculus users refused to merge their existing account with a Facebook account, as they didn’t trust Facebook. And in general not (blindly) trusting a social network or any company that makes its living from selling ads based on user profiling is a good idea.

            There also is no such thing as perfect security. The CCP could bribe Oracle employees to directly access data or turn a blind eye on code changes from TikTok that they should reject, though I think bribing Google, Meta or Amazon employees would be a better investment. It isn’t very likely that the Chinese government cares a lot about US TikTok user data. They run massive surveillance programs, but mostly targeted inwards to suppress any dissent that would endanger their rule. They managed to stay in power through a mix of controlling public opinion and basically buying people’s complacency with decades of huge economic growth, lifting a lot of people out of poverty.

            The latter was achieved in non-sustainable ways, now leading to large bubbles in their economy, which has lead to a strongly nationalistic policy for the last decade to create the idea of an external enemy and distract from internal economic problems. That makes China actually a lot more dangerous today, and it is important not to fall into the same trap.

            China isn’t only the CCP, there are 1.4bn people there, and Chinese companies like TikTok usually deal with the CCP because they have to, not because they want to. They are driven by the same monetary goals as US companies, and automatically being labeled spies is very expensive for them, as seen in Project Texas. Which is why I think that it’s important to acknowledge when these companies try to come up with solutions for the understandable trust issues. Simply rejecting what has been done to improve the situation and insisting that they are evil by default just sends the message that trying isn’t even worth it. And you can bet that the embarrassingly colossal shitshow of the congress hearing will be gladly exploited by the CCP to demonstrate to the Chinese people that the US never intended to give Chinese companies any fair chance, and that the only way to defend against that is a more closed Chinese society centered around the continued rule of the CCP.

      • Jeff Axline

        Thanks for writing this up. It’s a good read. The concerns that I hear (outside of congress) are from a different perspective. It’s less of a personal data issue and more of a propaganda issue. If the US government had access and some control of an app that 100s of millions of people inside China and around the world used daily there is no way it wouldn’t put it’s thumb on the algorithm scale to subtly tweak people’s perspective, just as other social media apps have been manipulated by all kinds of groups. It’s certainly logical that the CCP would do the same. I don’t think they need the data from an Oracle black box to do that.

        Having said that I’d buy one of their headsets day one if it was available in the US. I’d mainly use it for PCVR and wouldn’t be perusing hundreds of 10 second videos. I don’t care if Xi Jinping knows what kind of furniture is in my house or what products I buy.

        I’d imagine what is going to happen is some kind of compromise where both sides declare victory and the money keeps flowing in.

        • Christian Schildwaechter

          The concerns about abusing TikTok as a means of propaganda are very valid. Those of course also apply to all other social networks, and we have seen nefarious schemes esp. by Russia to influence elections in multiple countries via armies of trolls and bots on Twitter and Facebook, but direct government influence would be even worse. Manipulation of public opinion is a huge problem in all (social) media, and while US government is (hopefully) not the driving force for the strongly partisan spreading of routinely completely made up claims that wouldn’t withstand two minute of research, the social networks’ algorithms designed to drive up engagement promote these a lot, because engagement drives ad sales.

          Keeping social networks in check and requiring them to intervene when bad actors try to abuse them to spread misinformation and manipulate the users for political gains is therefore a good idea, something currently lacking. But going after the social network used the least for political content and more for short lived memes and challenges leaves a very bitter taste, esp. for anyone not being a US citizen. It sounds a little bit too much like spreading unchecked lies and scrubbing user data is okay, as long as it is done by a company in the US (which are also obligated by law to provide the government with information on non-US citizens), while the first globally successful competitor to any US social network actually taking market share from Meta or Google needs to be shot down as soon as possible. Even if in contrast to the existing networks they haven’t been used for obvious political manipulation (yet), the theoretical possibility alone seems to be enough for a ban. And that of course also ignores a lot of technicalities like the complete split of the network into TikTok (outside of China) and Douyin (inside China with all the typical censorship and propaganda issues), and TikTok measures to counter allegations of abuse (Project Texas/US, Project Clover/EU).

        • sfmike

          “I don’t care if Xi Jinping knows what kind of furniture is in my house or what products I buy.” Most of those products were outsourced to China for their production anyway by greedy American corporations that don’t want to pay American workers a fair wage anyway.

          • Anonymous

            You severely underestimate the amount of information an authoritarian government can extract from mere furniture types and turn into propaganda against you and your nation.

  • sfmike

    “Pico’s Twitter presence isn’t very large.” Why does this mean anything as intelligent people are leaving this information sewer as quickly as possible.

    • gothicvillas

      it was a sewer pre-Musk

      • sfmike

        You are so right.

  • Kenny Thompson

    WTF are we doing allowing China to enter markets in the US while they keep their country a walled garden. It’s high time we wake up and get our stuff together.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Oh please. Don’t act like the US isn’t pushing its crap on the rest of the world. If the US thinks blocking china from technology (which the US didn’t even invent itself) is smart, think again, it will only increase china’s advances over the US. I’m not fond of China’s government, but the biggest threat to the world is the US, its bullying other countries, spying on its own allies, undermining other governments and hightening tensions in certain regions. And trying to prevent other countries from creating their own nukes, while developing and expanding its own arsenal. Also the only country in the world who actually used several atomic bombs to kill hundreds of thousands innocent people.

      • Anonymous

        Lmao. You really need to study more on history and basic international laws than just believing in on the propaganda China or Russia wants you to believe. Not fond of China my ass. You are already brainwashed by them without knowing it.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          And you are clearly brainwashed by the americans. I’m pretty up to my history.

    • Anonymous

      Sort of, but it is not about petty trade revenge.
      The CCP requires all private companies to have CCP influence in them (party tied executives, deliberate backdoors etc.), their presence alone is a threat to national security.
      The CCP also actively disregard international laws (South China Sea), treaties that it signed (Hong Kong) with others, commits genocide (Uyghurs and dissidents through organ harvesting) against its own people, spy on foreign citizens to create targeted propaganda to induce political unrest (TikTok, WeChat), actively perform corporate espionage to steal whatever they cannot create, as well as weaponize commerce with the most pathetic and whimsical reasons more times than anyone else (Australian coal / seafood imports). They also hid COVID pandemic and caused all nations over two years of economic stagnation.

      The CCP is the scumbag of humanity, way worse than the Soviet Union ever was. It deserves to be choked to death and dismantled completely some day.

  • Anonymous

    Justice served. Keep it this way please!
    And not only that, where is that needed wide scale chip- ban to all Chinese IT hardware brands? This is a MUST because they all are required by law to accept some sort of CCP influence (CCP tied executives, CCP supervisors, deliberate backdoors, etc. ).
    Pico, Tencent, Pimax, Xiaomi, Huawei – they must all either relocate to a democratic nation, 100% free of CCP influence, or die. This is necessary for humanity to remain progressive and peaceful. Authoritarian governments should be banned from getting advanced IT equipments, any form.

    Those who think “bUt tHeY have nO JuRisDicTion outside of China!” are just naive and delusional. China doesn’t need jurisdiction to harm us. The CCP collects info to categorize us into social groups for targeted propaganda, feeding the “China is great” impression and various fake news, or to identify and approach extremist groups and to divide the western world. They weaponize IT and our freedom of speech to instill social unrest.
    Why do you think all of a sudden there has been a major outbreak of left-wing extremist groups and ideas in the recent decade in the US and EU, and we are more divided than ever?

  • Bob Jenkins

    This isn’t true.