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VR revenue expected to triple

Wu Yiyao
Updated: May 13,2016 7:46 AM     China Daily

A visitor plays VR games at the three-day Consumer Electronics Show Asia 2016 in Shanghai, which ends on May 13. The event showcases the latest VR products including headsets, glasses and accompanying content displayers. [Photo/China Daily]

Revenue from virtual-reality-related products and services is expected to more than triple in China this year compared with last year, but experts insist the burgeoning sector is still in need of significant improvement in terms of user experience and content production.

According to new research jointly released by the China Electronics Standardization Institute and Xinhua News Agency, an expanding community of companies, both large and small, are working flat-out to make VR more of a part of our everyday lives.

It said the Chinese VR market was worth 1.54 billion yuan ($236 million) in 2015, and is expected to rise to more than 5 billion yuan this year.

A dozen of the country’s leading VR firms have gathered this week at the Consumer Electronics Show Asia 2016 in Shanghai, which ends on May 13, to showcase the latest VR products including headsets, glasses and accompanying content displayers.

“Most VR products now focus on entertainment systems, which offer video game players vivid images and feelings that enhance their entertainment experiences,” said Jiang Li, a sales manager with Beijing-based VR hardware and software provider Pico Inc.

The other good news for consumers, is that companies at the event said average VR product prices have been falling, as technologies mature and more players enter the fray, making competition fiercer.

Lin Jinfu, a VR product trader with Xiamen-based Shimao Game and Entertainment Ltd, told China Daily, for instance, that glasses that help users watch VR content displayed on their own smartphones or televisions cost less than 300 yuan, while headsets with integrated displayers and audio systems cost no more than 4,000 yuan, which are both around 30 percent lower than last year.

Visitors to the show complained, however, they were having to queue for up to half an hour for VR demonstrations lasting just two minutes, and many said they had expected a better variety of contents on show.

Wang Zhihao, a 21-year-old student, said he experienced five trials at three different exhibitors, and almost all were about games science.

“It is not really the virtual reality that I had expected, because these are not the kinds of images I am waiting to experience.

“I was hoping for something different, such as a tour of an exotic destination or something that is hard to find in reality.

“These kinds of shows have to try harder to offer something different,” said Wang.

Alfred Zhou, general manager of GfK China, a market research and consultancy services provider, agreed VR product providers need to improve their user experiences by adding more technologies to both software and hardware, and the current level of “tech value” remains lower than consumer expectation.

“It is estimated 1.5 million hardware sets will be sold in China in 2016, so we really need to pay attention to what they offer and how they are likely to be used,” said Zhou. “Software and hardware developers should expand, not only in how they serve consumers, but also how they market and brand certain products.

“Customer service will become an important pillar of the VR market growth.”