ByteDance acquires VR headsets firm following Facebook's Metaverse zeal- PingWes...

 2 years ago
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ByteDance acquires VR headsets firm following Facebook's Metaverse zeal- PingWest

ByteDance acquires VR headsets firm following Facebook's Metaverse zeal

Rebbeca Ren

posted on 18 hours ago

As a platform created to consume people’s time and attention, ByteDance shares a lot of similarities with its US counterpart.

Following Facebook's increasing commitment to Metaverse, a nascent online world where people exist in shared virtual spaces through avatars, TikTok's parent ByteDance makes a big move, announcing the acquisition of Chinese virtual reality (VR) headset brand Pico.

Chinese gaming giant Tencent also reportedly joined the fight for Pico, but ByteDance eventually won with a higher bid of 5 billion yuan ($773.20 million).

"Pico’s comprehensive suite of software and hardware technologies, as well as the talent and deep expertise of the team, will support both our entry to the VR space and long-term investment in this emerging field", ByteDance said in a statement.

Founded in 2015, Pico is known for its VR/AR (augmented reality) solutions and standalone VR headset series. An IDC report in June estimates that Pico is the third-largest maker of VR headsets, following Facebook subsidiary Oculus and Chinese company DPVR. 

Before being bought by ByteDance, VR device maker Goertek was Pico's controlling shareholder and original equipment manufacturer (OEM). It's worth noting that Goertek is also the OEM of Facebook's Oculus.

The company, which completed a $67.23 million B+ round of financing in March, also set up publishing division Pico Studios in North America, partnering with top global developers to bring its 6DoF VR apps and games to consumers in Asia. (Note: 6 DoF VR headset allows tracking the position of the headset and the orientation of the headset. Oculus Quest series equipped with 6DoF VR system) 

ByteDance’s purchase of Pico is reminiscent of Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus in 2014. As a platform created to consume people’s time and attention, ByteDance shares a lot of similarities with its US counterpart. 

In an internal letter issued in July, Zuckerberg said that he is betting Facebook's future on Metaverse and is building a virtual world with the combination of hardware and software. He believes that Metaverse is a successor to the mobile internet. "It's a vision that spans the whole industry...I think a big part of our next chapter is going to hopefully be contributing to building that, in partnership with a lot of other companies and creators and developers," the Facebook founder said in an interview with The Verge.

Since the beginning of this year, Bytedance has also speeded up its venture into the virtual universe. In April, the Chinese social media titan increased its investment in Roblox competitor Reworld by nearly 100 million yuan ($15.46 billion). The startup, which has previously secured $43 million from ByteDance, said its platform had more than 3,400 games and 1,800 creators last year.

Now, with hardware support provided by Pico, ByteDance is able to establish a fictitious land around its own social media apps and video games, attracting people to consume time on it.

But acquiring Pico had only been the beginning, like Facebook, ByteDance also has to pour more resources into supercharging the company’s internal research pipeline.

In five years, Facebook's annual R&D expenditure has grown from $5.9 billion to nearly $18.5 billion. It also turned its flagship VR headset into a product closer to mainstream equipment, at half the price of Rift.

As Metaverse becomes the hottest tech buzzword, big tech companies are increasingly obsessed with the concept. Apple bought VR company NextVR last year, sparking speculation it could be working on its own VR headsets. Microsoft sells AR devices designed for business, and Nvidia’s vast library of artificial intelligence chips and the software needed to run them also occupy an important place in the virtual world.

It is unknown whether the bet can bring huge returns, there were miles to go before VR headsets would be as intuitive and common as a smartphone. Increasing from million users to billion is destined to be a tough process, and Metaverse's technological foundation AR/VR has also experienced lean years.

People may step into the virtual world faster than expected, as Metaverse ignites the enthusiasm of the industry. At least we have seen the prototype of the concept in Roblox, Minecraft, Decentraland, and other popular games.

Photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash

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