When CNET opened its San Francisco offices for its first VR day, more than 1,000 readers signed up to try out this new technology.
Now Oculus, one of the leading makers of virtual-reality headsets, which Facebook bought for $2 billion, is working with Best Buy to offer demonstrations to customers at its stores starting May 7. The company said it will offer a variety of demos at the stores, including the rock-climbing game The Climb.
"For many, this is a first chance to jump into truly immersive VR," Oculus said in a statement.
The program will launch in 48 Best Buy stores, with more planned for later this summer. Oculus also said it won't have many demo units on hand at first because it's still getting devices delivered to customers who preordered them. Oculus began delivering the $600 headset to customers in March.
The move is a logical next step for Oculus, which until now has only been able to offer public demonstrations at trade shows and developer conferences. Though the company says it won't yet have many Rift headsets available to sell to customers, industry executives often say consumers need to experience VR before they fully understand what it is.
"Until you try it, you're skeptical of it," Sylvio Drouin, a VR software developer. He recently offered demos at a party using Google's $20 Cardboard headset, which puts a phone so close to your face that your mind is tricked into believing you've been immersed in a computer-generated world. The people who tried it soon wanted to know how to get their own, he said.
Whether this new retail effort will inspire people to buy VR headsets remains to be seen. Sales of VR devices and software are expected to reach $40.4 billion by 2020, according to SuperData Research. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been warning that while he sees a bright future for VR, it will get off to a slow start.
Customers can sign up for the demos at live.oculus.com.