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Augmented and virtual reality to see aggressive growth by 2021

Matt Hamblen | March 20, 2017
IDC sees number of AR/VR headsets jumping dramatically as the nascent technology gains traction

Llamas pointed to Embraer Commercial Aviation's use of AR/VR goggles from Canon that can give business customers a view inside a business jet to help them decide the position and color of seats and furnishings. That process allows for faster production of custom planes.

In similar fashion, Case Western Reserve University has partnered with Cleveland Clinic using Microsoft HoloLens to teach human anatomy so students can get realistic views into the human body, Llamas said.

Ubrani said Epson has shown off AR Moverio glasses in Japanese baseball stadiums that allow fans to supplement a game with stats while they're watching. The glasses can also let dentists pull up patient records while they're peering into a person's mouth.

IDC includes in its count of commercial VR and AR the numerous arcades in China's cities where customers play online VR games. "A lot of VR gaming is taking place that way," he said. Those headsets are purchased by the arcade or movie theater operators, and are counted as commercial sales, he explained.

Even with those kinds of early successes, VR still suffers from limited content. "There's not a lot of VR content out there and what is out there is very targeted" to younger users and gamers, Ubrani said. Facebook, which purchased Oculus in 2014, allows users to create VR avatars to use in a virtual world, for example.

Strategy Analytics on Thursday said VR is "poised for tremendous growth over the next several years," but tempered its optimism with a survey that indicates VR experiences are still wanting. "Current VR experiences lack the context required for real engagement with the medium," the company said in a report.

Mathew Alton, an analyst at Strategy Analytics, said VR content can be made more compelling by adding sensory engagement for users to be able to "touch," see and hear what's happening in virtual spaces. Many early VR movies only allow a user to hear sounds and move in simple ways, if that. Adding social interactions with other VR users would help, the report said.

Despite such reservations, Strategy Analytics still believes the VR industry will pass $10 billion in revenues by 2022.

VR gear now on the market is sold at a wide range of prices, with the Google Daydream headset used with the Pixel smartphone starting at $80, while the HTC Vive with a headset, controller and other accessories can cost $800 to $1,000, depending on the configuration.

"There's a huge disparity in price and performance right now," Ubrani said. "We're worried if someone goes out to try a really cheap headset that's decent but not great and then gets turned off from scaling up with the next purchase. It's still early days and that worry is more of a theory. It's not like a smartphone where somebody might start with a low-quality device and move up."


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