The potential growth of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) won’t be realized until there is more content available. People are not jumping to buy VR headsets and, despite the efforts of some vendors promoting them and bundling them with other devices, the sales of headsets and other VR devices has been slow.
While VR headsets hold tremendous potential, only 12 million were sold in 2016, mostly inexpensive units to use with smartphones. This year, new devices arriving from several manufacturers, and faster, cheaper, video processors, could boost VR to the masses.
The real size of the VR market is difficult to estimate. According to a July article in Fortune: “Analysts are divided over how quickly virtual reality will catch on. At the high end, 20 million units could be sold this year , including all types of VR headsets and accompanying controllers and accessories, according to market research firm Tractica. Neil Schneider, executive director of the Immersive Technology Alliance, came up with a much smaller estimate of 300,000 units in the first 12 months on sale.” Also according to Schneider, smartphone based VR headsets, such as the Samsung Gear, could sell well as an attractive bundle. Analysts, however, are reducing their estimates. Market tracker Digi-Capital has cut their forecast from $150 million to $120 million for 2020.
Facebook and Samsung boost
During the Samsung Galaxy S7 launch event last year in Barcelona, Mark Zuckerberg made a surprise appearance that was as much about VR as the introduction of Samsung’s new flagship model. Zuckerberg took the stage to talk about VR and 360-degree immersive video as the new way of sharing life experiences on social media. But VR wasn't merely talked about in the abstract. Everyone attending had an Oculus VR headset waiting at their seat. The stage, in the center of the room, was a large black box that opened to the ceiling. We used the VR headsets to watch the introduction of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge smartphones. Later that same week, at the Mobile World Congress, Zuckerberg went on to talk about his vision of people using 360º cameras to record VR videos to share with friends and family. He called VR the “next step in sharing our life events on the internet.”
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