LAS VEGAS — Virtual reality headsets aren't just for immersive gaming — they also have plenty of practical uses for business large and small. That's how Lenovo sees its new tentatively-named Lenovo VR headset, which debuted this week at the CES tech trade show. It's set to launch sometime in mid-2017, and will be priced between $300 and 400.
That will make Lenovo's headsets one of the least expensive VR headsets on the market, which is good for businesses on a budget. It's light, too, weighing about half as much as the HTC Vive, which should make it more comfortable for extended wear — though I didn't get a chance to try it on myself, because Lenovo only had a non-working prototype to show off this week. The device is designed to pair with mainstream PCs, including mid-range systems that have integrated graphics.
So why should business users care? While the headset is certainly capable of running virtual reality games, workers will be more interested in a range of productivity tasks that Lenovo envisions for the device. For starters, a Lenovo representative told me the headset could be used for educational purposes, including the training of new employees. In other words, the headset can create a virtual space where employees can view and practice work tasks without ever leaving the training room.
Since the headset includes a pair of depth-sensing VGA cameras on its front, it's capable of detecting the size and orientation of the room you're standing in. That opens up a variety of augmented reality (AR) options, like the ability to view virtual objects projected right into a real-world space. That functionality could also be used for training, as well as in sales scenarios. Imagine customers being able to view a product in full 3D before ordering it, for example.
Lenovo also imagines that headsets like this one might also catch on for more mundane business tasks. For example, they might make simple Skype meetings more immersive. You could also view email, social media and web browsers projected virtually into your work space.
The main takeaway is that Lenovo is aiming to make VR and AR more accessible for businesses with its new headset, by launching it at a relatively affordable price and lowering the system requirements. That's enough to put it on our radar while we wait for it to launch later this year.