Oculus Rift, Gear VR, and HTC Vive may be the main head-turners when it comes to virtual reality. But these headsets can also make emerging VR seem too hardcore, not to mention pricey.
In order to make VR more accessible, Dodocase has unveiled its latest iPhone accessory: a foldable, pocket-sized VR viewer. The SmartVR is a sleeker, waterproof take on the Google Cardboard viewers, which are not as durable—they’re made out of cardboard, after all. SmartVR is also more comfortable to put on your face, and it’s a lot easier to carry around with you because it folds like a pair of glasses. This pocket viewer can fit any smartphone up to 12.5mm thick, including the iPhone 6s (7.1 mm) and the Galaxy S7 (7.9mm).
While most Cardboard viewers can cost anywhere from $15 to $20, SmartVR is priced at $40, but you can pre-order it now for $28 on Dodocase’s Indiegogo campaign. Pre-orders are expected to be shipped out in June.
San Francisco-based Dodocase initially started making cases for iPhones and iPads. In 2014, the company ventured into mobile VR when it become Google’s first “Works with Google Carboard” partner. The company claims that they have sold about 500,000 Google Carboard viewers since then, which led Dodocase CEO Craig Dalton to consider these VR viewers as the next great accessory to hit the iPhone.
Originally, these smartphone-driven VR experiences were seen as a “gateway drug” to the more-immersive systems like Oculus Rift, Gear VR, and HTC Vive. However, the Dodocase team is banking on mobile VR becoming its own thing, perhaps with broader appeal, especially for anyone who can’t afford an $800 VR headset.
A recent study by SuperData showed that mobile VR was expected to actually supercede over expensive VR headsets in terms of sales. Dalton thinks VR will emerge very similarly to how gaming has evolved. Today, the gaming market has enough room for console die-hards on Xbox and casual gamers on their mobile devices to co-exist.
Another parallel to mobile gaming, the App Store has enough quality VR apps to justify getting a durable VR viewer like SmartVR. Using the Vrse app, for example, you can watch U2’s virtual reality music video shot all over the world. With The New York Times’ NYT VR app, you can visit candlelight vigils in Paris after the terrorist attacks.
Dalton expects this “snackable” VR content to only get more prevalent, especially as 360-degree cameras get more mainstream and people get more comfortable creating their own VR content. The Instagram of VR is nearly upon us, and when it gets here, you may want to have your own reusable VR viewer.
Even right now, SmartVR offers a satisfying dip into virtual reality, without breaking the bank. And it’s more elegant than holding a cardboard box up to your eyes.