With Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Valve and HTC’s Vive now available for consumers, a big concern is whether their current PC will even run these virtual reality platforms.
According to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, only 10% of current PCs in the world will run either virtual reality device. He believes an additional 10% of PCs can be upgraded through a Nvidia or AMD graphics card for an additional $300. Therefore, consumers will have to invest in PC hardware in addition to the headset purchase.
Technology company Razer, which has a valuation of over $1 billion, was early in the virtual reality game. It co-founded the Open Source Virtual Reality (OSVR) program, an open software and hardware platform for virtual reality that has over 300 companies on board, including Ubisoft, Valve, and Epic Games. Razer also shipped its own $300 OSVR hardware development kit for game developers and companies interested in creating virtual reality content.
“Presently, OSVR is positioned as a development tool with which hackers and developers of all stripes—casual gamers to students to engineers and technologists—can advance VR software and hardware without boundaries, seamlessly and collaboratively,” Min-Liang Tan, Razer’s co-founder and CEO, says. “VR has not seen practical use scenarios to-date, and the institutionalization of I/O (input/output) device form factors and functions is very much an outstanding issue, so our commitment is to offering the most open platform possible to allow the greatest innovation from wherever it might be found.”
Razer is also developing a virtual reality camera called Stargazer, which features Intel RealSense technology. The camera will ship in Q2 2016 and will connect to the OSVR ecosystem.
Now Razer is offering consumers a new laptop and desktop hybrid PC option that will run both Oculus Rift and the Vive. The $1,000 Razer Blade Stealth is an ultrabook that can be used on the go and then plugged into the $400 Razer Core desktop. Once connected, the system’s Nvidia graphics cards will power any virtual reality experience.
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Tan says the Blade and Core combination hit home on both sides of the virtual reality equation.
“For gamer-hackers, the laptop is perfectly suited for dev work with OSVR,” Tan says. “The OSVR platform doesn’t demand enormous systems requirements, enabling the Blade to be a solution for VR development work on the go and generally. On the other end of the spectrum, Razer Core turns the Blade into a machine capable of actualizing the most graphics-intensive VR programs imaginable, and that capacity is upgradable.”
While Razer has partnered with Lenovo on a line of new gaming PCs aimed at the larger market, Tan says his company remains focused on developing Razer PCs for its core gamer audience. The company recently released the New Blade laptop, which retails for $2,000.
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“With our new direct-to-consumer approach we can sell premium products at lower prices,” Tan says. “We expect to be one of the world’s biggest PC makers in the future.”
Razer has invested a lot of money into eSports, which is something its audience of gamers spend a lot of their free time watching. Given that virtual reality is another investment area for the company, eSports and virtual reality could open up new opportunities for the company.
“Ultimately, the advent of I/O devices in concert with game architecture will determine how and when eSports and VR meet up,” Tan says. “Eye-tracking and other sensor advents, controller ID, visual interfaces, and the like will certainly affect the way that games are played and, in fact, react to players. We’ll look forward to one or another publisher stepping up to tackle that proposition, and look forward to OSVR giving them cause to do so, soon.”
Razer has expanded beyond virtual reality and gaming over the past year, getting into the music space.