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Are VR/AR a consumer product for the masses?

Expected growth of VR goggles over the next few years. The bars represents VR goggles “used” in the consumer market. 26 millions estimated last year, growing to 70 million in 2026. Image credit: InsiderIntelligence

As in the past 5 years many companies have showcased at CES their wares to support VR and AR. You can take a peak to what went on at CES 2022 in this area in the nice clip below.

As you will see the host in the clip, Cas, is very excited or all the new things that were shown at CES, and rightly so. However, if you go back (and you can easily do that) and search for similar presentations for CES 2015….2021, you’ll perceive the same excitement about VR and AR supporting devices that promised (and still promise) widespread adoption.

The numbers tell a different story. As shown in the graphic there were some 26 million VR goggles in use in the mass market, worldwide. Compare this to the almost 15 billions mobile devices estimated in 2021 and you see the difference. The expectation is for a significant growth to reach 70 million by 2026. That’s a steep increase but, even if the target is reached, it will remain a niche market. Notice that 44 million increase over 5 years means a sale of less than 5 million pieces per years. If you look at another “niche”, Playstation today has some 110 million registered users today.

My point is that although VR and AR represent an important area we have not reach the point where they become part of everyday experience. We are still waiting for a breakthrough device (like the iPhone was to bring internet to the mobile experience).

Probably, at least that is my expectation, we are going to see AR becoming an everyday part of our experience much sooner than VR. We have already taken steps in that direction with Google Lens and more pieces are coming. Still looking at when, if, the rumours on Apple AR device will turn into reality. 2022 might be the year. Will see.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.