A man tests a virtual reality (VR) headset at a convention for gaming. Pic: Flickr/Maurizio Pesce

Chinese retailers: Plenty of opportunities for virtual reality outside of gaming

THE market for virtual reality (VR) experiences is quickly becoming big in China, where manufacturers have begun creating headsets similar to Google’s Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive VR headsets at a cheaper price.

Most VR headsets are focused on high-end gaming experiences – such as Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine and zombie-stuffed Arizona Sunshine – but the Chinese retail industry has made it clear they too want to be in on the VR market.

According to China Daily, several industry experts have noted that VR technology could add value to the customer’s experience when it comes to shopping for certain products, particularly customizable ones.

One example, said sale representative Zheng Hong, is a VR showroom for ceramics. Zheng, who represents the Lianbang Ceramics Ltd Group, told the newspaper: “It costs about 80 percent less to build a VR showroom to present ceramic products to buyers than to create a showroom full of real ceramics.”

He also said that in a VR showroom, customers can view “hundreds of patterns” and customize them in real time before making any purchases.

“In a traditional showroom, consumers need to move from one area to another and spend half a day seeing only a handful of choices,” he said.

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An analyst for Shenzhen-based virtual reality company Buteng VR Ltd, Wang Qing, told China Daily that “there will be many opportunities” for the technology to be used outside of gaming once industry standards and regulations have been decided on.

“VR and AR will hardly be used solely for entertainment purposes,” he added.

The Chinese market for virtual reality was worth 1.54 billion yuan (US$236 million) in 2015, according to a report by the China Electronics Standardization Institute and Xinhua News Agency. The market worth is expected to rise by more than 5 million yuan (US$751,151) this year.

A reason for this huge market worth could be because Chinese manufacturers have been aggressive at creating VR headsets that are not just up to US$300 cheaper than Google or HTC’s offerings, but they have also been striving to innovate headsets that look more like actual glasses.

According to TIME Magazine, a VR headset designed to look more like regular glasses could be revolutionary, and will push all other innovators in the same direction, as such a design would lead to more socially acceptable headsets.