Ximmerse yourself: Chinese start-up offers fans of virtual reality a helping ‘hand’ by selling joysticks, sensors

Consumer kits expected to be available in the third quarter of 2016

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2016, 4:56pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2016, 7:04pm

Chinese start-up Ximmerse plans to push virtual-reality applications to the masses by delivering a dedicated controller and sensors as accessories for smartphones and VR headsets.

With offices in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, Ximmerse makes VR motion scanners and joysticks, as well as a so-called “body posture detection system” to facilitate more complex motion control.

The accessories can work with VR kits from Google and Samsung Electronics.

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“Current mobile VR devices only have good output functions. They need good input devices to really work well,” said Ximmerse founder and chief executive He Jie.

Google’s Cardboard and Samsung’s Gear VR headsets lack external controllers and sensors, which puts a limit on the user’s interaction in the virtual world.

More sophisticated input functions can be found in high-end VR headsets for desktops.

Ximmerse released versions of their products for software developers in December. Consumer kits are expected to be available in the third quarter of this year, with a retail price of around US$150 for a pair of sensors and a joystick.

The company claims it has developed a new algorithm that makes motion-sensing smoother. An algorithm is a set of rules that tell a computer how to perform certain tasks.

Mobile VR kits that rely on smartphones to provide a screen cost from US$10 to US$100, while desktop headsets cost upwards of US$600 and require a high-performance PC or games console to support their programmes.

The number of mobile VR users in mainland China is expected to exceed 1.3 million this year, according to iResearch. It forecast that number will double in 2017.

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Founded in January 2015, Ximmerse has received funding from US mobile processor supplier Qualcomm and Guangzhou-based Chang Ce Investment Management, according to Chinese government records.

He said Ximmerse has also received investment offers from several other VR device suppliers, but that it has turned them down because it prefers to stay independent.

“We do not want to join any group at this early stage of VR development,” He said.

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Mobile is a promising product segment of VR, said Neo Zheng, an analyst at research firm IDC. Desktop devices will not see rapid adoption in China because they are still too expensive for the average consumer, he added.

Although high-end headsets such as Facebook’s Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive have received most of the attention in the VR market to date, Zheng said VR accessories for smartphones will soon become the dominant way of consuming virtual reality.