Why Xiaomi leaped into the VR industry

For centuries, people have dreamed of new worlds and dimensions, something that has more recently been brought to life in Sci-Fi films and even more recently, has become a reality through VR.

And the VR industry came to the middle of a whirlwind in 2014, as in that March, Facebook acquired the VR pioneer Oculus – which has been testing VR devices since 2012 – for $2 billion. Soon after that, global technology players like Google and Samsung followed suit, investing heavily in this growing industry. 

Xiaomi’s leap into VR

By the end of 2015, our founder and CEO Lei Jun discussed with Alee, our co-founder who leads the marketing team as well as other high-level Xiaomi executives about introducing more cutting-edge technology to Mi Fans. It was at this time that we established Mi Lab and confirmed two major research directions – AI and VR.

Lei Jun told the VR team, “If you are going to dive deep into the VR field, you have to be fully prepared for a hard time of at least five years.” From day one, we decided to fully commit to exploring and adapting VR practices and integrating them into our technology.

In 2016, we launched our first standard-sized VR headset in China for RMB 199, a device that required a separate smartphone. We continued to develop a standalone VR headset that was easy to use anytime, anywhere, and still priced affordably, all while providing a high-quality VR experience.

We were determined to find the world’s best and most dedicated team to work together. Since 2015, we’ve been visiting Oculus to collaborate and understand their VR developments. To bring the best in the industry to our customers, and let more people enjoy high-quality VR experiences, we partnered with Oculus to bring two standalone VR headsets to the market: Oculus Go and Xiaomi Mi VR Standalone.

An important part of good VR experiences stems from engaging VR content, which mainly comes from games these days, as gaming companies are best at computer graphics, which can build a genuine and immersive 3D world.

Nowadays our VR platform brings over 100 popular VR games from around the world to China. For example, by playing “Hello Mars,” which uses NASA’s statistics, the player can experience an adventure of taking a spacecraft and landing on Mars. While in “Dream Flight,” the player can soar over oceans and villages, exploring the world’s geography. 

According to the China Culture and Entertainment Industry Association, in 2017, VR games achieved a sales revenue of about $62.5 million in China, growing 28.2 percent from the previous year. There were over 800 popular VR games on the market, mostly from global makers. Meanwhile, we are working with developers directly to bring more engaging content to China.  

Ever growing content in the global markets

Currently, VR content in the global markets mainly touches the gaming, education, design and tourism industries, among which gaming is also the most popular.

Analyst firm TechNavio anticipates that between the year 2016 and 2020, the world’s VR game market scale will increase 84.4 percent. By 2020, its sales revenue will achieve $162 billion, with the major income stemming from the US.

As the VR industry grows, it has introduced numerous tools, such as VRChat, a social platform that allows users to create and explore virtual worlds with other people from around the world. You can play the game with a VR headset or in desktop mode, but a VR device creates a more immersive experience.

However, the VR industry is still very young and VR content is still in its early stages. According to our research, on a global scale, the average time that people spend on VR is just 21 minutes per day. On Oculus’ devices, the world’s largest VR platform, the average time spent is 37 minutes. Even in these early days, we found that 20 percent of VR game players are willing to pay for VR games, and most players care more about content quality than the price.

We anticipate that VR will have to go through major transformations in both hardware and content to bring users an experience that truly transcends and amplifies the real world. It may take time to achieve this goal, especially as we are now only starting in China, but we are looking forward to experiencing aiding in the growth of the VR industry across the world in the coming years.