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Wearable Tech

Xiaomi VR headset is yours for 15 cents -- if you're a beta tester

The new Mi VR Play virtual-reality headset isn't available to the general public yet, but some in China will be able to test it if they lay out a small investment.

Xiaomi is testing its first VR headset.

Xiaomi

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has jumped into the world of virtual reality.

On Thursday, the company unveiled a test version of the Mi VR Play, its first virtual-reality headset. Similar to Samsung's Gear VR, the VR Play works with your smartphone. You simply unzip the fabric panel on the front of the device and slip in your phone.

The device is compatible with a wide variety of phones, ranging in screen size from 4.7 to 5.7 inches, Xiaomi said. Two openings in the front of the headset are designed to allow for adjustments to the phone's position and provide sufficient ventilation for the phone.

Virtual reality promises to be a whole new way to immerse yourself in games, movies and other panoramic 3D environments. Heavy hitters including Facebook, Google and Samsung have already staked their claims with headsets and other VR trappings, but the field is still young enough to allow ambitious upstarts to make some headway. Xiaomi may have just that kind of moxie, judging by its rapid rise to the top ranks of smartphone makers.

Xiaomi was mum about the price of the VR Play and the date of an official release to the general public, but it did call the headset an entry-level product that's aiming to bring the VR experience to a larger number of people. The company also said it's prepping its new headset to make a "huge impact in China, where VR is still in its infancy."

And the interest in VR among Chinese consumers does seem to be high. After announcing a call for beta testers of the VR Play, Xiaomi said it received 1 million registrations in just eight hours. Through the beta program, users can try out the VR Play by buying one for just 1 Chinese Yuan (15 cents). Out of the vast number of applicants, tens of thousands of users will be able to beta test the product as the first round of testers have already been selected, an Xiaomi spokesman told CNET.

The VR Play headset will be available in basic black and pink as well as a range of other colors and special patterns and designs. Joining the headset itself is a Mi VR app, which lets users experience virtual-reality environments created by different companies. As a starter, the headset includes content from such providers as Conde Nast Traveler, Chinese video site YouKu and Korea's Dooribun.

Xiaomi said it will reveal pricing and availability of the Mi VR Play beyond the beta testing at a later date.