Xiaomi is venturing in virtual reality territory for the first time, officially announcing its own headset called the Mi VR Play. From the looks of it, Google Cardboard may have some serious competition.
Tech Times reported in late July that a Xiaomi VR headset was expected to hit the scene in August, and it now looks like the rumors were spot on. The Xiaomi Mi VR Play just made its formal debut, and it seems to be a beefed-up alternative to Google Cardboard.
The entry-level virtual reality headset is pretty basic, aiming to tap a new audience formed of budget-conscious VR enthusiasts who can't afford spending a small fortune on high-end gadgets such as the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift.
Giving consumers access to current technology at affordable prices has been among the standing pillars of Xiaomi's business so far, and the company rose in ranks largely thanks to its focus on affordability. Xiaomi launched several competitive products recently, including the MacBook Air rival called Mi Notebook Air, which starts at just $550.
The new Mi VR Play now seems to be gunning for the cheap and simple Google Cardboard VR headset. Xiaomi's offer is similarly basic, allowing users to simply stick a smartphone into the lycra-made body of the headset and enjoy VR content via Xiaomi's Mi VR app.
On the downside, Xiaomi is making its Mi VR Play headset available only to a limited number of beta test users in China. The company made no mention yet of global availability, and even in China the headset is hard to come by. A whopping 1 million users signed up for the beta in just eight hours, and only a fraction actually got selected, TechCrunch reports.
Xiaomi will offer a selection of VR content from partners such as Conde Nast Traveler and Youku, dubbed the YouTube of China.
"Mi VR Play app provides wide variety of video resources and contents. Latest film and videos could be found here ensuring you have a great time by using Xiaomi VR," notes the company. "Youku, iQiyi, VR hotcasts are few examples of our partner[s]. They are among the best content providers in China and we strive to bring more contents in our VR platform."
As for the headset itself, the Mi VR Play is wrapped in durable Spandex, Lycra, which is lightweight and flexible so that it's comfortable to wear. A two-way zipper aims to ensure compatibility with a wide range of smartphones, designed to offer a firm grip on various handsets ranging from 4.7 to 5.7 inches in size. The dual openings on the front, meanwhile, allow users to adjust the position of their smartphones within the Mi VR Play, while also ensuring the handsets get proper ventilation to avoid overheating.
Overall, the Mi VR Play seems like a slightly upgraded Google Cardboard alternative that could just do the trick for the budget VR sector.
The price of the Xiaomi Mi VR Play stands at a dirt-cheap 1 yuan, or about $0.15, but that's for beta testers. It remains to be seen how much the device will cost once it hits commercial availability, but it will surely stay on the affordable side of things.
We'll keep you up to date as soon as more details surface on final pricing and availability, so stay tuned. Until then, check out the promo video below.