Virtual Reality

Augmented and Virtual Reality Shipments to Double Each Year Through 2020

Augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headset sales are expected to see a compound annual growth rate of 108.3 percent from 2015 to 2020, according to a new report from International Data Corp. (IDC). That growth rate will lead to 76 million units shipped in 2020, if the forecast holds true.

"2016 has been a defining year for AR as millions of consumers were introduced to Pokemon Go and, on the commercial side, developers and businesses finally got their hands on coveted headsets like Microsoft's HoloLens," said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC mobile device trackers, in a prepared statement. "AR may just be on track to create a shift in computing significant enough to rival the smartphone. However, the technology is still in its infancy and has a long runway ahead before reaching mass adoption."

The forecast is based on the company's newest tracker program, the Worldwide Quarterly Augmented and Virtual Reality Headset Tracker, which "covers a wide range of products, technologies, form factors and geographies," according to a news release.

"The more affordable VR devices will continue to lead the market in terms of volume," according to information released by IDC. "However, IDC expects AR headsets to pick up momentum over the forecast as more affordable technologies and more original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) enter the market. IDC is currently tracking three categories of headsets: screenless viewers, such as Samsung's Gear VR; tethered head-mounted displays (HMDs), such as the HTC Vive; and standalone HMDs, such as Microsoft's HoloLens."

The vast majority of shipments are currently and will remain throughout the forecast period VR headsets, at 10.1 million units in 2016 compared to just 100,000 shipments for augmented reality headsets, though the latter will see much faster growth over the forecast period, as it is predicted to reach 15 million units shipped in 2020. VR headsets will still see massive growth of their own, however, surging to 61 million sales in 2020, according to the forecast.

"Augmented reality represents the larger long-term opportunity, but for the near term virtual reality will capture the lion's share of shipments and media attention," said Tom Mainelli, program vice president for devices and AR/VR, in a prepared statement. "This year we saw major VR product launches from key players such as Oculus, HTC, Sony, Samsung and Google. In the next 12 months, we'll see a growing number of hardware vendors enter the space with products that cover the gamut from simple screenless viewers to tethered HMDs to standalone HMDs. The AR/VR headset market promises to be an exciting space to watch." 

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].