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ByteDance-Owned Pico and Global Chipmaker Qualcomm Are Now Officially Partners
March 3, 2022 News


Written by: Martin Dale Bolima, Tech Journalist, AOPG.

The Extended Reality (XR) space is getting more and more interesting, so much that Alibaba predicts it to reshape digital applications and revolutionise the way people interact with technology—whether for entertainment and social networking or in the office, in education and in healthcare—in the next three years.

Expect that timeline to only accelerate with partnerships like that of Pico and Qualcomm, which figure to usher in new innovations in the XR sphere sooner rather than later.

The partnership between Pico, a Chinese Virtual Reality (VR) startup now under TikTok parent company ByteDance, and Qualcomm, a global leader in wireless technology and innovation, was formally announced by the two companies during “Mobile World Congress” (MWC) 2022 in Barcelona, Spain. With the partnership, Qualcomm will, moving forward, be powering Pico’s future XR products with its pioneering platform, Snapdragon Spaces.

Snapdragon Spaces is Qualcomm’s developer program especially engineered to prepare apps for XR. But instead of bringing people to a digital world via Virtual Reality (VR) headsets, Snapdragon Spaces is focused on building experiences for Augmented Reality (AR) glasses so they will be more accessible using existing smartphones. The idea is to make AR a second screen that can give users digital experiences even without wearing VR headsets.

“This is a great opportunity. Maybe over a decade, [XR] could be as big as the phones, especially as augmented reality glasses become an extension of every smartphone,” said Cristiano Amon, CEO at Qualcomm, at MWC 2022, a major mobile connectivity show held yearly. He added: “We always believe many other ecosystems are going to embrace these technologies and bring scale. We’re collaborating on hardware and software to enable a global XR ecosystem.”

For Pico, partnering with a global tech monolith like Qualcomm could be the boost it needs to garner worldwide acclaim. A VR powerhouse in China, Pico remains way behind industry leader Oculus in terms of both user reach and creator ecosystem. In fact, Pico’s two major products account for a mere 0.3% of global VR headset usage in January, whereas Oculus’s Quest 2 and Rift S corralled 60% of the market.

But between being bought by ByteDance for ¥5 billion (USD $792 million) in August last year and partnering with Qualcomm moving forward, it is not inconceivable for Pico to make major in-roads not only in the VR space but also in the XR sphere in general.

“We are excited we will be working together on hardware, software and technology roadmaps to enable the ecosystem for people,” said Rubo Liang, CEO at ByteDance, via a video message. “We are also committed to building solutions that empower developers and creators. It is very exciting to be able to work with Qualcomm in terms of hardware, software and technology to jointly open an ecosystem for Pico. We are very much looking forward to our future Pico devices powered by the Snapdragon Spaces XR developer platform.”

That Pico formally partnered with Qualcomm is not surprising, as Pico’s most recent VR headset, the Neo 3, already sports the chipmaker’s Snapdragon XR2 chipset. With the two companies having worked together previously, there is likely a familiar dynamic in play, which figures to bode well for Pico. Whether or not Qualcomm can help establish the Chinese-based brand as a global name is a question for another time.