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Pico shutdown rumors: ByteDance denies exit

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ByteDance, the parent company of the popular social media platform TikTok, has found itself at the center of controversy amidst recent speculations regarding the fate of its Virtual Reality headset subsidiary, Pico. Rumors have swirled around the tech world, suggesting that ByteDance might be planning a gradual shutdown of Pico, leading to concerns about the company’s commitment to the XR (Extended Reality) industry.

The Pico 4 Breakthrough

Two years ago, ByteDance made a significant move by acquiring Pico, a prominent manufacturer of Virtual Reality headsets. Following this acquisition, ByteDance wasted no time in injecting substantial investments into the XR industry. One of the highlights of this partnership was the launch of the Pico 4 headset, although it’s notable that this headset is not available in the United States.

The Pico 4 turned heads with its innovative features, including pancake lenses, color passthrough (albeit without depth correction), increased RAM, and improved displays. What’s even more remarkable is that the Pico 4 offered these features at a price point comparable to the Oculus Quest 2. It’s been rumored that this affordability was achieved through substantial subsidies, positioning the Pico 4 as a competitive player in the market.

EqualOcean’s Exclusive Report

However, recent developments have raised doubts about Pico’s future. Chinese news outlet EqualOcean published an exclusive report claiming that Pico would undergo a gradual shutdown, and that ByteDance was distancing itself from the Metaverse. According to the article, unnamed sources revealed that Pico’s leadership recently went to Singapore to present their progress to Zhang Yiming, ByteDance’s founder. The feedback they received was less than reassuring, with ByteDance reportedly planning to abandon the Pico business.

The article states (translated): “The latest news on October 20th, according to sources who spoke to EqualOcean, the head of PICO recently went to Singapore to report on their work to Zhang Yiming. The feedback received was that ByteDance will gradually abandon the PICO business. The reason for this decision is that the hardware field where PICO operates is not an area of expertise for ByteDance. Over the past few years, PICO’s performance has not met expectations, and there is no foreseeable hope for the future.”

ByteDance’s Response

In response to these reports, ByteDance swiftly denied any plans for a Pico shutdown. A representative from ByteDance (translated) stated, “Some media reports suggested that ByteDance would gradually abandon the PICO business. In response to this, a representative from ByteDance stated that these reports are not accurate. PICO is operating as usual, and the company will continue to invest in the XR long-term.”

This statement from ByteDance counters the narrative of Pico’s impending demise, providing a glimmer of hope for the future of the VR headset manufacturer.

Pico’s Ongoing Commitment

While the situation remains somewhat unclear, there is currently no concrete indication that Pico is discontinuing its research and progress in the XR industry. In a further display of commitment to their market presence, MIXED, a key player in the XR industry, reported that Oliver Wöhler, an Enterprise Sales Leader for Pico, announced Pico’s plans to participate in AWE (Augmented World Expo) in Vienna. The purpose of their participation is to unveil “exciting news about their strategy for the rest of the year and into 2024.”

This announcement suggests that Pico is not only standing firm in the XR industry but is also planning to expand and innovate in the coming years.

The rumors of a Pico shutdown have generated significant controversy and speculation within the tech community. However, ByteDance’s firm denial of these reports offers some assurance that Pico may continue to thrive in the XR industry. Pico’s upcoming participation in AWE further indicates their commitment to innovation and long-term success.

As we await more concrete information, the tech world will be keeping a close eye on Pico and ByteDance to see how this unfolding narrative will impact the XR market and the future of Virtual Reality.