China’s leading Virtual Reality (VR) headset maker DeePoon unveiled new VR products at CES in Las Vegas in January to get ahead of the game.
DeePoon is speeding up to stay competitive with foreign companies. They told AllChinaTech on Thursday that they have completed a crowdfunding campaign on Taobao for their new headset DeePoon Kankan. DeePoon collected about RMB 5.4 million (USD 825,000) from 46,410 buyers within 40 days.
“The market share of our DeePoon VR helmet E series reached 63% in January,” Chen Zhaoyang, founder and CEO of DeePoon, told AllChinaTech.
Chen was the former R&D manager for Intel China. He founded the company in Shanghai in 2014. More than half of their 100 employees are engineers and developers from large tech companies including Apple, Baidu and Tencent.
The company’s valuation has now reached USD 830 million. They landed USD 30 million from download manager Xunlei and mobile game developer Kingnet in Series B financing in December 2015. DeePoon will be able to use Xunlei’s technology in its content distribution network and cooperate with Kingnet to develop VR games. Animation and culture company Alpha also invested in the company and became its strategic partner at the end of last year to further collaborate in animation production, film production and game development.
DeePoon’s main products include the Virglass series and E series VR helmets, which feature Active Matrix/Organic LED (AMOLED) display screens.
“DeePoon is the only Chinese VR headset maker that has an OLED display screen supply from Samsung,” Chen said. “The E2’s parameters are as good as the Oculus Rift DK2.”
The specs seem to back up his claim. The DeePoon E2 has a refresh rate of 75 Hz, the same as the Oculus Rift DK2. The E2 also has a slightly wider field of view (FOV) of 120°, compared to the DK2’s 100° FOV. Most of the DK2’s VR content is also compatible with the E2. The price of a DeePoon E2 is only RMB 1,799 (USD 276), compared to USD 350 for an Oculus Rift DK2.
DeePoon values VR content development. DeePoon has its own VR content distribution platforms – the mobile app 3Dbobo and the PC software DeePoonzhushou. 3Dbobo now has over two million registered users and 50,000 daily active users, according to the company. Chen said they are working with over 100 domestic and overseas gaming companies including Tencent Interactive Entertainment, Unreal Engine and Unity Technologies, and many Chinese video companies including iQIYI, PPTV and Dreamerkr.
Not only DeePoon, but larger Chinese VR developers BaofengMojing, Ling VR and 3Glasses are also exploring VR hardware and content distribution. Still, international VR headsets including Oculus Rift, Play Station VR, Gear VR and HTC Vive are getting more competitive in the market.
“It’s a good thing that foreign competitors entered the Chinese market first. They have educated Chinese consumers about VR,” Chen said. “Chinese companies are not as far behind as people think. We have the local advantage. As long as we can produce good devices, we are able to compete with foreign giants.”
Most Chinese VR companies started with low-cost Google Cardboard-esque VR headsets. Chen said it is because most Chinese consumers will not hesitate to pay RMB 100 or so for a mobile VR device, but are reluctant to buy much more expensive gaming devices. He also said the fast development of China’s smartphone industry, led by companies including Huawei, Xiaomi and Lenovo, has contributed to the spread of mobile VR devices.
Because the performance of Chinese smartphones have improved quickly, mobile VR devices with comparatively low prices have their advantages, according to analysts from Chinese research group iResearch. And all-in-one VR devices with a better sense of immersion will dominate the market as long as the consumer market has matured. Mobile VR devices are expected to become the mainstream of the Chinese VR market in its early stage, says iResearch.
“China will see around ten million shipments of mobile and all-in-one VR devices in 2016, while Western markets will be more focused on PCs and game consoles,” said Chen.
“The next five years will be a golden age for VR development, and technology will be the key factor. It’s important for us to maintain China’s leading position in VR technology.”
Last Tuesday, Beijing-based VR startup ANTVR announced its cooperation with the founder of Frog Design and former Apple designer Hartmut Esslinger, adding to the intense competition in China’s VR market.
Read our VR story series here.
(Top photo from DeePoon.com)