VR hardware to take off in 2016

The HTC Vive lets users experience room-scale gameplay.
The HTC Vive lets users experience room-scale gameplay.

Virtual reality (VR) is not new but it has had a few false starts in recent years. However, it looks like 2016 is going to be a great year for VR.

According to IDC, worldwide shipment of VR hardware will hit 9.6 million units in 2016. Led by key products from Samsung, Sony, HTC, and Oculus, the category should generate hardware revenue of about US$2.3 billion this year.

While VR will drive nearly all of the hardware volume in 2016, augmented reality (AR) hardware is forecast to ramp up over the next few years. The combined AR/VR device market will see hardware shipments surge past 110 million units in 2020.

IDCIDC has identified three major device categories across the AR/VR market. They include:

  1. Screenless viewers that use the screen of specific smartphones to drive an AR/VR experience (example: Samsung Gear VR)
  2. Tethered Head Mounted Displays (HMDs) that utilise an existing compute device such as a PC, game console, or even a smartphone to drive a head-worn display (example: Oculus Rift)
  3. Standalone HMDs that integrate processing within the head-worn display itself (example: Microsoft HoloLens). IDC is specifically not forecasting Google Cardboard-based products in its totals, nor any other viewer accessory that lacks electronics.

In 2016, the first major VR Tethered HMDs from Oculus, HTC, and Sony should drive combined shipments of over two million units. When you combine this with robust shipments of screenless viewers from Samsung and other vendors launching later this year, you start to see the beginning of a reasonable installed base for content creators to target,” said Tom Mainelli, Vice President for Devices & Displays at IDC. ”

“Video games will clearly be the lead rationale for people to pick up an Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or PlayStation VR this year. While there have been some launch window hardware shipment hiccups that must be addressed near-term, I’m confident that they will be ironed out before the holiday season. The addition of exciting new titles will lead to a new wave of VR HMD hardware interest among those buying for themselves or family members and friends,” added Lewis Ward, Research Director of Gaming at IDC.

IDC expects AR hardware to take longer to bring to market.

“While development kits from players such as Microsoft, Meta, and others point to a strong future in AR hardware, these devices are dramatically harder to produce than VR products. Doing this right is more important than doing it fast, and we urge the industry to continue its slow and steady approach to hardware development here, as AR is going to have a profound impact on the way we interact with technology and the way we do our jobs for many years to come. In the meantime, we expect companies to begin experimenting with AR software on devices already in use: smartphones and tablets,” said Mainelli.

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