Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi just jumped feet first into virtual reality. On Thursday, the firm announced the Mi VR Play, an “entry-level” headset that relies on your smartphone to deliver VR apps, games, movies, and TV shows.
The Mi VR Play, much like Samsung’s VR, LG’s 360 VR, and other smartphone-dependent VR peripherals, is relatively simple, electronically speaking. It’s made of Lycra, a fabric which Xiaomi describes as “lightweight” and “durable,” and features “dual openings” on the front for airflow and “micro” adjustments. Uniquely, it’s able to accommodate a wide range of phones — any that measure between 4.7 inches and 5.7 inches, the company said — thanks to a two-way zipper grip that fits snugly around them.
A VR headset is nothing these days without a killer content library to match, and Xiaomi is bringing the goods. It’s partnering with Conde Nast Traveler and Chinese video service YuKu, among others, to bolster the VR headset’s library of content — efforts which will dovetail with the company’s pledge last year to invest $1 billion in video content.
Pricing and Availability
When the Mi VR Play launches in China sometime this year, it’ll be available in a variety of “bold prints and colors” — leopard print, denim, a print of van Gogh’s The Starry Night, among others. But details remain elusive. Initially, Xiaomi’s giving a “select few of the more than one million people that signed up the opportunity to beta test the Mi VR Play for just 1 yuan, or about $0.15. Information about a broader release to follow — plus final pricing — will be revealed in the coming weeks, the company said.
It’s unclear if the Mi VR Play will support Daydream, Google’s virtual reality platform on Android, when it officially debuts. Many companies said they will support the certifications for phones — it’s likely Xiaomi will eventually do so for the headset. So far, ZTE’s VR headset and Axon 7 smartphone are the first devices to be Daydream-certified.
Xiaomi just released the Redmi Pro smartphone, a strong entry at a low price of $225 to $300 depending on specs and storage. Knowing the Chinese company, this headset could be priced low, too. Again, we can’t verify this, and we’ll have to wait until the company makes an announcement later this year.
We’ll update this post as we learn more.
Update on 08-04-2016 by Kyle Wiggers: Added details revealed during Xiaomi’s official announcement.
Article originally published in July 2016.