Letv will launch the LeVR COOL1, which they call a “virtual private theater” on December 29.
One of China’s most popular streaming video sites today announced the release of its first virtual reality headset – and it’s going for a cool US$23.
The ludicrously-named LeVR COOL1 is like a more refined Google Cardboard. Users simply slip their smartphone into the device, strap it onto their head, and take virtual reality for a spin.
An app and media ecosystem
Letv calls its device a “virtual private theater,” and is hoping that its suite of apps will help the headset stand out from the competition. (“Virtual private theater,” if a bit long, is also a far better name for the device than LeVR COOL1.)
Letv’s online streaming service is already very popular in China, and the company has rebuilt several of its movie, TV show, sports, and music streaming apps to play nice with virtual reality. It is also planning to work with other content producers to build up its library of games, news, education, and other media.
2015 has not been the golden year of virtual reality that many predicted it would be. It turns out that the number of people who are eager to strap their smartphones to their faces is still fairly low, despite valiant efforts from a number of startups to bring the technology into the mainstream.
But at US$23, it’s hard to argue with Letv’s hardware. The headset comes with head straps (Google’s does not, and requires users to hold it up) and is equipped with Bluetooth remote control. Whether or not the COOL1 is a solid piece of hardware is only half of the equation, though. Virtual reality is still young, and the field is still lacking a suite of killer apps to convince people that it’s worth engaging in.
Letv is better positioned than many other companies in China to make VR work – it has a robust media library, experience building hardware and apps, and a willingness to take risks. But those factors alone don’t mean the COOL1 will be a success – it’ll first need to build an audience.
The company first opened its first pre-sale session of COOL1 headsets yesterday evening, and they will be available for purchase from Letv’s website next Tuesday, December 29.
This piece originally published on Tech in Asia