The Pico 4S may be real, but is this the Vision Pro competitor that ByteDance hoped for?

The Pico 4S may be real, but is this the Vision Pro competitor that ByteDance hoped for?
A lot of tech enthusiasts have shared their positive impressions of the Pico 4 online, claiming that it’s one of the best VR headsets around. And you know what? If you can handle its quirky OS and obvious TikTok influence, then yes: it is in many ways better than the fan favorite Quest 2.

Yet, it is also not even close to the Quest 3’s performance. But did that even matter? First came the layoffs, then ByteDance — owner of Pico, maker of TikTok — decided that Pico will no longer focus on consumer grade headsets.

Instead, the rumored new goal was creating a Pico-branded Vision Pro competitor.

This, in turn, left a lot of Pico fans discouraged. After all, this effectively meant that a Pico 5 — let alone one with an international release — was off the table for good. But in another twist of fate, we can now ask: is it really?

Only it’s not the Pico 5, but allegedly the Pico 4S.

If you’ve been following the XR scene for long enough, then you’ve probably heard about Luna. This online tipster has built a reputable track record and this bit of news comes from them. See the picture above? That’s a render for a controller. And the file’s labels say it belongs to the Pico 4S. Huh.

Said render was found among the local files of Pico Connect — Pico’s dedicated PC VR streaming app. The initial discovery was made on a Chinese web forum(translated source), but later Luna was able to verify that indeed: such files not only existed, but are viewable in 3D as well.

If you’ve seen the controllers of the Pico 4 in the past, then you’ll be able to immediately spot a difference: the huge “ring” is gone on the render. This probably means that the Pico 4S’ controllers have improved tracking, but it is too early to set any expectations. 

That being said, I can’t help but wonder if these controllers could be backwards compatible with the Pico 4 base model too. That would be really neat, right?

Some of the related Pico Connect files and an image of the controllers among them, compared to the Pico 4 controller. 

And, would you look at that? ByteDance has recently trademarked “Pico 4S” with the China National Intellectual Property Administration. As the name suggests, this is where ideas go to become reserved by companies, which could be taken as a sign of production intent.

Then again, not all patents or trademarks lead to products, so keep that in mind. But it’s time that we ask the real question here.

What is going on with Pico in 2024?

First the company disavowed consumer XR entirely and it seemed like the plan was to switch to serving enterprise clients. Then there was that rumor about a Vision Pro competitor, but it will probably take more than an amped-up version of the Pico 4 to achieve that goal.

And most importantly: who could the Pico 4S be for? Well, let’s try to give some context: just as the massive layoffs at Pico were going on, Meta and Tencent announced a partnership, dedicated to producing a budget-friendly XR headset. Recently, however, it appears that is no longer the plan.

So, here are the facts:

  • Pico and ByteDance are competitors in China
  • ByteDance’s decisions regarding Pico could have been influenced by the Meta-Tencent partnership
  • Now that partnership is said to have fallen apart

Pico has shown an admirable degree of “flexibility” when it comes to it’s business strategies, so could this be yet another example of the company charting a different course, following the winds of change?

As in: could the Pico 4S be a direct response to the alleged cancellation of the budget-friendly Meta headset? At least, as far as co-production with Tencent is concerned. 

Food for thought. And whatever the case, if the Pico 4S becomes a reality, we hope that it gets to see an international release this time around.
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