TikTok Parent Lays Off Hundreds at VR Subsidiary Pico Interactive, Tencent Scraps VR Plans – Road to VR

TikTok parent company ByteDance is reportedly laying off what South China Morning Post maintains will be “hundreds of employees” working at its VR headset manufacturing subsidiary, Pico Interactive. A separate report from Reuters also maintains Chinese tech giant Tencent is scrapping its plans to release a VR headset.

According to two people with knowledge of the Pico layoffs, a substantial portion of the VR headset maker is expected to be affected. The report maintains that some teams will see as much as a 30 percent reduction, while some higher-level positions are also expected to be affected.

After being acquired by ByteDance in August 2021, Pico job postings revealed the company was making a sizable expansion into the US to presumably better compete with Meta on its home turf.

Shortly afterwards, the China-based company then released its latest standalone headset, Pico 4, in Europe and Asia to consumers. Seen a direct competitor to Meta Quest 2, Pico 4 still isn’t officially sold in the US; the headset is currently only available across Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, and most countries in Europe.

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It was also reported by Chinese tech outlet 36Kr that Tencent, the massive Chinese multinational, was disbanding it 300-person strong XR unit. The company has since refuted this claim with Reuters, stating instead it will be making adjustments to some business teams as development plans for XR hardware had changed.

Citing sources familiar with the restructuring, Reuters reports that Tencent is abandoning plans to release a VR headset due to a sobering economic outlook.

This follows a widening trend of layoffs which have affected nearly every big name in tech, including Google, Meta, Amazon, and Microsoft. Microsoft recently announced it was shuttering its social VR platform AltspaceVR in addition to its XR interface framework, Mixed Reality Toolkit. Meanwhile, Microsoft has also had trouble fulfilling its end of a US defense contract which uses its HoloLens AR headset as the basis of a tactical AR headset.

It was also revealed late last year that Meta was planning to cut discretionary spending and extend its hiring freeze through the first quarter, alongside a layoff which affected nearly 11,000 employees, or around 13 percent of its overall workforce.