If you thought that the rapid adoption of affordable VR headsets was about to slow, then think again. Devices ranging from the Google Cardboard VR headset, which costs between $10-$20 to the Samsung Gear VR headset, priced at $99, have been flying off shelves. In fact Google estimated that over 5 million Cardboard devices have been shipped to day, while Samsung is in the midst of shipping tens of thousands of their Gear Vr devices thanks to a promotion in which they gave them away with a new Galaxy S7 purchase.
With that said, we may be about to see even a bigger explosion in both the low and mid-range segment of the market, and luckily for consumers, prices will likely drop much further. As Chinese manufacturers look towards the future, virtual reality seems to be the next big market for them to capitalize on. With many analysts predicting as many as 1 billion headsets being shipped over the next 7-8 years, the market’s growth projections nearly mimic that of the smartphone 8-9 years ago. In fact, the drive to enter the market is so strong in China that industry reports have indicated that over 100 different companies are entering the headset market as we write this.
This last week at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair a number of these manufacturers were on hand to show off they products. While the majority of these headsets were very similar to one another, and it appeared as if many were simply rehashed Google Cardboard devices, there were also a number of mid-range headsets which were able to distinguish themselves from the crowd. The low-end devices were wholesale priced in the $2 to $3 range, and were basically less glorified, but perhaps sturdier Google Cardboard-inspired devices. On the other hand, priced in the $25 to $80 range were devices which function sort of like the LG 360 headset, in that they plug into a smartphone, using it for the brains of the headset, but have stand-alone LCD screens for the display.
While this influx of Chinese companies entering the market certainly can’t be a good thing for the already-established low and mid-range manufacturers, the influx of possibly tens of millions of new VR users could certainly have a major positive impact on the entire VR ecosystem, ranging from applications to games, to experiences to peripherals. As for new higher end devices which could compete with the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, there were none, leading us to believe that the Chinese market will be reserved for those producing the less complicated, more affordable headsets; at least for the time being.
What do you think the impact of more affordable VR headsets could ultimately mean for the entire VR ecosystem. Let us know your thoughts in the Chinese VR forum on VRTalk.com.