This week, Lenovo and ThinkReality – the computer giant’s enterprise XR arm – announced a new standalone VR headset, the ThinkReality VRX. Given the timeline, we have to talk about it largely in the context of the Pico 4 release. But, we probably would have anyway, given Lenovo’s history with Pico.
Our First Look at the ThinkReality VRX
Before we get into everything else around this announcement, let’s look at the headset itself.
On September 28, Lenovo announced the ThinkReality VRX. The headset has been announced, but it won’t get into the hands of early-access users until later this year, so there’s still a lot that we don’t know about the headset. So, what do we know?
First, ThinkReality VRX is incredibly versatile. It’s designed for 6DoF experiences, but can also run 3DoF experiences. It’s designed as a standalone device, but can also be tethered to a computer or stream content from a PC wirelessly, and work with the growing number of enterprise cloud solutions. And, it’s designed for VR but it can run AR and MR through color passthrough.
Next, it’s state-of-the-art. Again, we don’t have some specific specs yet. But, we do know that it uses pancake optics for high resolution. The design is also pretty unique, featuring a counterbalanced halo-style head strap.
“[Our customers] need business-class solutions for the new realities of working in hybrid scenarios and virtual environments,” ThinkReality’s GM of XR and Metaverse Vishal Shah said in a release. “We engineered the Lenovo ThinkReality VRX to be the VR solution of choice for training and collaborating in immersive 3D.”
The software running on the headset is ThinkReality’s in-house platform, though it also runs Snapdragon Spaces. A close relationship between ThinkReality and Qualcomm (including a hardware developers kit) was presented at AWE this year in talks by Shah and Qualcomm VP and GM of XR Hugo Swart.
Lenovo is also working with other software developers, including ENGAGE, to create “an ‘always on’ virtual home for Lenovo to showcase products and solutions as well as to meet and collaborate with partners and customers.”
The Shifting Enterprise Landscape
Back then, Pico was making a name for itself as the name-to-beat in enterprise VR. It was more enterprise-focused than VIVE, more streamlined than the HP Reverb, more affordable than Varjo, and it wasn’t owned by Facebook.
After the Mirage Solo, Lenovo and ThinkReality started working on the A3 and A6 lines of MR headsets – the A3 is pared-down and mainly for virtual screens, and the A6 was more robust. During that time, something else happened. Chinese social media company ByteDance purchased Pico.
The acquisition spurred the development of consumer products for Pico (in regions where Pico offers consumer support). On the enterprise side, however, the acquisition means that Pico has lost the trust edge over Meta.
Lenovo announced the ThinkReality VRX just days after Pico announced its Pico 4 and Pico 4 Pro. This time a few years ago, that would have been because Lenovo’s solution was built on Pico’s – after all, the Mirage Solo was very obviously a Pico G2. However, this time things are different.
The ThinkReality VRX looks nothing like the Pico 4, neither is Pico mentioned in Lenovo’s material. In terms of competition, it makes sense for Lenovo to do it alone. In the standalone market, Lenovo is now where Pico was a few years ago: Oculus is owned by Meta/Facebook, Pico is owned by ByteDance, and ThinkReality is owned by Lenovo – a trusted non-social-media company.
More to Learn
Right now, any conversation about competition in standalone enterprise VR headsets has to be ideological. We know everything about the Pico 4 Pro except for the price. We still have a lot to learn about the ThinkReality VRX. And, we haven’t gotten much formally from Meta on the Quest Pro before Connect which takes place on October 11.