Arguably the main hurdle virtual reality technology has to overcome in order to reach the masses is the price tag. Leading virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive can go for close to $1000, and many mainstream consumers aren’t going to shell out a grand on technology they haven’t had much of a chance to interact with, let alone equipment that can be fairly cumbersome and requires a lot of space to take full advantage of. Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi understands this dilemma, releasing a lightweight, quirky and relatively inexpensive VR headset meant to assuage monetary concerns and attract the curious, but heretofore uninitiated, VR consumer.
Xiaomi’s Mi VR Play is constructed from comfortable lycra and accommodates most smartphones with a two-way zipper compartment and anti-reflective aspheric lenses. It’s similar to Google Cardboard, except its made out of better material and is customizable. That’s right – Xiaomi is probably the first brand to introduce a little flash and substance to the VR headset realm, with different models available in a wide variety of styles, including camouflage, denim, leopard and floral patterns, among many others. It’s no wonder then that more than one million people signed up to beta test Mi VR Play and play a game that will cost them just 15 cents in order to get their hands on the headset.
Games aren’t the only thing the Xiaomi Mi VR Play will support. The brand has partnered with Conde Nast Traveler and VR Hotcast to deliver a mountain of content, ranging from virtual reality films and videos to immersive 360-degree experiences. Xiaomi hopes that Mi VR Play will optimize VR experiences for previous MI UI users, all the while becoming an open VR platform in China. When beta testing for the device has finished, Xiaomi will likely announce a firm release date and price, which is expected to match or even best the price of current Cardboard viewers. Those who have been itching to give virtual reality the old college try might have just what they and their wallets bargained for soon, thanks to Xiaomi Mi VR Play.