VR may be hyped, but it’ll take ‘maybe a decade’ to become mainstream

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VR penetration of Australian households will only reach 25.5 percent by 2021.

Image: B. Tongo/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

Despite burying us up to our neck in hype, the virtual reality industry is off to a very slow start.

Apparently, VR hardware penetration in Australia will only reach 25.5 percent of households in 2021. Currently, about 2.3 percent of local households have some sort of VR available.

For the moment, high-tech, pricier VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are not dominant. According to consumer research company Telsyte’s Australian VR & AR Market Study 2017, mobile VR headsets accounted for some 70 percent of the 216,000 VR headsets sold in Australia in 2016.

According to Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi, the availability of quality content will be key to the industry’s growth — in particular, AAA gaming titles.

“This is a technology that will take maybe a decade to become mainstream,” Fadaghi said. “Our forecast for 2021 is primarily based on attachment to game-capable devices and uptake by the gaming community.”

The company surveyed a sample of 1,060 Australians aged over 16 about their attitude to VR. Around half reported wanting a headset for “games, movies or entertainment purposes.” 

It’s also possible that mobile phones will eventually lean heavily towards the augmented reality market rather than VR, given the excitement over games like Pokémon Go.

Gaming takes an increasing share of mobile app revenue, and it’s not inconceivable the same could be the case for the augmented reality and VR industries, he argued. 

However, developers for VR are currently being buoyed by vendor support rather than consumer support, but that could change. “The strength of those relationships will be tested over the next couple of years,” he suggested.

It’s also about accessibility. The HTC Vive requires a powerful PC to run optimally, but it’s VR technology that doesn’t require too much in the way of additional purchases that’s taking the lead for now. 

“We strongly believe that the most successful [VR] platforms will be the console and smartphone platforms,” Fadaghi added, referring to hardware like Playstation VR and Google Daydream. “PCs will be an important part of the gaming ecosystem, but the outlay on new PC hardware has typically been a barrier.”

It’s also possible that mobile phones will eventually lean heavily towards the augmented reality market rather than VR, given the excitement over games like Pokémon Go. Marketshare could be lost to AR from 2018 onwards, he suggested, particularly as AR computing platforms like Google Tango help the technology spread across smartphones.

Fadaghi compared VR to wearables, where we’ve seen a slow but steady uptake in Australia. “Smartwatches haven’t seen a rapid boom and bust, just a steady increase,” he pointed out.



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