Meta's VR headsets have enjoyed a comfortable lead on its competitors with its line of Quest headsets but a new standalone VR headset from China's ByteDance appears to be gearing up for a showdown on a global scale.
ByteDance's Pico Neo 3 VR headset started appearing on shelves in Europe earlier this year and a new Pico headset simply named the Pico 4 is being developed possibly for release in other parts of the world, according to some leaks that made their way to the Internet.
An analyst from China posted on the WeChat forums a photo of the headset that appears to have a dual set of Pancake lenses, a thinner set of lenses compared to the Fresnel lenses available on headsets like the Oculus Quest 2. Kopin Corporation's Pancake lenses take up less space in the headset and are made from plastic so they aren't as heavy as Fresnel lenses. Less space and weight means the headset can be smaller, something that Meta and Apple are both trying to do with the next generation of VR headsets.
We reached out to Kopin Corporation to see if Pancake lenses — a specific brand name registered by Kopin — would be included in a potential upcoming Pico 4 Pro. Kopin replied that they had no comment to share at this time.
Following the WeChat leak, more information about and images of the Pico 4 Pro made its way to Twitter. Hardware Analyst Brad Lynch shared photos he found on Chinese social media of proposed designs of the headset including a spec drawing of the headset's "lightweight design" and side-by-side comparisons of the Pico 4 versus the Oculus Quest 2.
In addition to the lighter Pancake lenses, the Pico 4 will also have greater pixel density (1200 ppi vs. 773 ppi), a slightly larger field of view (105 degrees vs. 100 degrees) and a color passthrough camera instead of the black and white one on the Quest 2, according to the comparison list.
"I am getting the impression that serious competition for Meta is on the way," Lynch wrote.
We couldn't agree more. The timing couldn't be better for Pico. Last month, Meta announced it would increase the low, introductory price for the Oculus Quest 2 by $100 for the 128 GB and the 256 GB version. The new price also comes with a free copy of Beat Saber, the popular rhythm game that still occupies a high spot on lists of the Best Oculus Quest 2 games. The free game is a nice perk but it doesn't really make up the difference.
If Meta isn't careful, it could lose its edge on the VR market to Pico.
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Danny Gallagher is a freelance tech, game and comedy writer based out of Dallas, Tex. He's written features for places like CNET, Cracked, Maxim, Mandatory and The Onion AV Club. He's also written material for games produced by Jackbox Games and SnapFingerClick.