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LG will turn every new G3 phone into a VR headset, free of charge

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Jae C. Hong/AP/File

(Read caption) Show attendees play a video game wearing Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets at the Intel booth at the International Consumer Electronics Show(CES), in Las Vegas on Jan. 7. LG announced it will pair a low-tech VR headset with its LG G3 handset in a new promotion.

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Care for a virtual reality headset with your new smart phone?

That’s what LG is promising. The Korean tech company is the latest to jump in on the virtual reality craze, offering customers a free VR for G3 virtual reality headset when they purchase an LG G3 smart phone. The plastic headset uses the G3 as its screen, holding the phone close to your eyes to pull off the VR effect. Though the device won’t offer too much innovation-wise, it indicates the coming surge of virtual reality headsets, led by the hype around Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s HoloLens.

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The device is partly thanks to Google. The VR for G3 headset is based off downloadable DIY virtual reality headset blueprint Google Cardboard. But unlike Google’s offering, the device is plastic, pre-assembled, and will come packaged to work with aspects of the LG G3 phone.

“The neodymium ring magnet on the side of the VR for G3 works with the magnetic gyroscope sensor in the G3 to select applications and scroll through menus without touching the display,” says LG in a statement announcing the promotion. “VR for G3 requires no assembly other than inserting the phone in the viewer.” 

There will also be at least one downloadable game for the device, and users will be able to use it with virtual reality apps and games developed for Android on Google Play. LG says the promotion will be available in select markets, but didn’t say exactly where or when this promotion would begin.

The device will be similar to Samsung’s recently released Gear VR, which can be used with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. However, the Samsung model can cost upward of $300 on top of the phone’s cost. LG could benefit from allowing customers to test out the nascent technology before buying it, perhaps opening the market to the VR-curious.

"This is just the beginning of the virtual reality movement, which until recently was expensive and inaccessible to everyday consumers," says Chris Yie, an LG marketing executive, in a statement

This comes at a watershed moment for virtual reality as technology companies scramble to grab onto the coattails of Oculus Rift’s hype. Though the Facebook-owned virtual reality company has been hailed for its innovative headset, it has yet to release a device beyond a prototype. In the meantime, other tech companies are jumping on the tech. Most recently, Microsoft unveiled HoloLens, a headset that allows users to add tech features to every day tasks. On the gaming side, Sony continues to work on Project Morpheus, its VR headset that would put gamers in the midst of a game, rather than just on one side of the screen.