Virtual reality is everywhere. It was one of the most talked about gift items during the holiday season and marketers are jumping on the bandwagon to tout this category as the next big thing in the world of take-home entertainment technology. But not everyone is ready to shell out a ton of money for their virtual reality experience, so industry leaders like Google have come up with more affordable options.
Apple is finally starting to reveal that they are getting into the virtual reality arena with the other big players.
Google Cardboard might have gotten some laughs at first, but the headset has allowed users access to virtual experiences in ways like watching VR videos on YouTube. They offer viewing devices that are inexpensive and have allowed the general public to experiment with VR when they otherwise might not have been able to afford, or want to wait for a headset like Oculus Rift. Heck, Google Cardboard is even being used in the field of science and was actually used by doctors in the U.S. to save a baby's life.
Samsung Gear VR could be considered the middleweight fighter in this competition with pricing around $100 for their headset, but they have to acknowledge that a brand like Google is a contender, even at the different price points, because they watched over 5 million headsets ship since the launch of Google Cardboard in 2014. However, Apple is finally starting to reveal that they are getting into the virtual reality arena with the other big players. Rumors have circulated for months that Apple has had plans to expand into this category but the company has remained notoriously quiet about where they are going in this field. When they hired Doug Bowman, a Virginia Tech professor who specializes in virtual reality, it finally started to seem that plans were underway.
Enter the beloved childhood toy, View-Master, that has previously been featured on Google Cardboard's website. Remember the click through reels that featured photo slides of animals and places that came to life right before your eyes? Well, now you can have a similar experience with your smartphone and this VR viewer. View-Master works with Google Cardboard and Cardboard apps but Apple has started selling the View-Master Virtual Reality Starter Pack for just $29.95.
Look out Google Cardboard, at this price point, Apple is taking virtual reality down to the people's level. The Apple brand is known for being top of the line and, quite frankly, not worried about having higher prices because loyal consumers continue to buy their products without discounts and coupons because, well, they're from Apple. But this new announcement is a small step into the world of VR for the company and directly competes with a viewing device offered by the most affordable model on the market from Google. Now, we know Apple won't be advertising anything in a bargain bin anytime soon, but they have set a tone for their direction in virtual reality by working with Mattel and offering an affordable experience for people.
The long anticipated release of Facebook's Oculus Rift seems like it's sitting on a tier of its own at the top of the pyramid with pre-orders and a consumer price of $600. Although a lot of people want to get their hands on an innovative model like this, it's just not practical for everyone. As the market grows to accommodate more options for consumers, the big players will have to be more conscious about their competition. If Apple and Google are going head to head on economic headsets with quality VR experiences, where does that leave the high-end retailers in this field? All of these new developments signal that the heat is on and the competition is fierce in the world of virtual reality.