BEIJING — Virtual reality headsets could make a big splash next year, but it will take another three to five years before the technology becomes mainstream, according to HTC, which is hard at work on its Vive VR headset.
The company’s chief content officer Phil Chen made the comment on Monday while speaking with journalists at the TechCrunch Beijing summit following his speaking on a panel alongside Dillon Seo, co-founder of Oculus.
“It will take some time for it to go to the masses,” Chen added, noting that the equipment needs to be refined, and enough content produced. But even so, the company is confident in the technology, with Chen saying he expects a billion VR headset devices to be sold in seven or eight years.
The smartphone maker has been working with gaming developer Valve on the HTC Vive, an upcoming VR headset similar to the Facebook-backed Oculus Rift. Following the November release of Samsung’s Gear VR, HTC’s own product will launch globally early next year, but will also be released in limited quantities before 2015 ends.
Although the Vive has been marketed up as a gaming device, the company is “most bullish” on applying it for educational and healthcare areas, as well as using it as a platform to tell interactive stories, Chen added.
HTC made its name selling Android smartphones, but the business has been struggling in recent years. Following falling profits, in September the company was taken off the Taiwan Stock Exchange’s FTSE TWSE Taiwan 50 Index, a list populated by Taiwanese companies with the most valuable blue chip stock. To revive sales, HTC has been investing in virtual reality and other smart devices, such as a fitness band designed in partnership with Under Armour, as well as launching the iPhone-like A9 midrange handset.
As for the HTC Vive, Chen declined to reveal its price, or how many units will be released this year, but said the company wants to make the product global, and has been talking with potential content partners across the world. Most of the current content partners are located in Western countries, but HTC’s Vive team has also started to become active in Asia, he said.
“Japan and China are very pro-VR and we are starting to talk to everyone you can imagine who is in gaming or animation,” he added.