HyperGrid Business points out that a low-cost Chinese virtual reality headset seems to be the world's industry leader -- well ahead of Rift, Vive, Gear, and other VR devices, and that the Chinese market for virtual reality is incredibly fierce, and massive:
Beijing-based Baofeng Technology Co. Ltd. has sold more than one million of its mobile-based virtual reality headsets since the beginning of this year, the company told the official China Dailynewspaper. That compares to reported sales of half a million headsets last year, making Baofeng the industry leader... Since there are now more than 100 manufacturers in China making virtual reality headsets, competition was fast and fierce, and the headsets have been evolving rapidly... According to industry consultancy iResearch Consulting Group, China’s virtual reality market saw revenues of1.5 billion yuan — or US$231 million — in 2015. Even at a high-end per-unit price of 150 yuan, 1.5 billion in sales translates to 10 million units.
Emphasis mine, because this eerily evokes something I wrote in 2013 when I actually lived in China:
The view from my Beijing residential hotel
While I doubt many out-of-shape Western gamers really want it, a country like China would probably embrace this Oculus Rift merged to a 3D treadmill technology. Because the thing is, Beijing is hardly the only epicly polluted city in China -- there are many more. In Beijing, even on nice days (and there are many of those, actually), you rarely see people jogging or otherwise exercising outside, probably because most city dwellers don't associate the outdoors with health...
Leaving aside the totally valid question about whether it's a good idea to escape a polluted reality (rather than improving it) into a utopian virtual one, I think it's inevitable we will see this in the next few years: Chinese Internet cafes with omni-directional treadmills, wired up to Oculus Rift headsets (or reverse engineered clones made in China), and millions of Chinese strapping in, to take a peaceful walk through verdant forests or sunlit beaches beneath a pure blue (albeit virtual) sky.
Not sure if VR cafes with treadmills have taken off in China yet, but I wouldn't be surprised. And like I suggested in my WSJ editorial, for virtual reality to really go big, it might take an irrevocably polluted, corrupted reality.
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