AR/VR Headset Shipments Forecast to Hit 100 Million Units By 2021, Buoyed By Apple, Microsoft, and Others

Earlier this month at the Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple revealed its first big push into the augmented reality and virtual reality spaces, with a new ARKit developer framework and high-performance iMacs with native support for VR content creation.

On Monday, research firm IDC published new data forecasting significant growth in both markets, with dedicated AR and VR headset adoption expected to increase from just under 10 million units last year to 100 million units in 2021.


VR headsets account for much of the device volume so far, with VR headsets powered by a smartphone proving the most popular, according to IDC. The second half of 2016 also saw an increase in volume of Sony PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, and Facebook's Oculus Rift.

"The next six to 18 months will further stimulate the VR market as PC vendors, along with Microsoft, introduce tethered headsets and high-end standalone VR headsets also enter the market," said Jitesh Ubrani senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. "With lower hardware requirements on the PC and lower prices on headsets, VR will be more accessible than ever before. And the introduction of additional motion tracking and hand tracking will help further blur the line between digital and physical reality."

Although IDC believes VR headsets will continue to dominate the market in terms of volume for the foreseeable future, the firm believes AR will have a much bigger impact on the industry as a whole, in part thanks to Apple's recent entry onto the scene.

In terms of dedicated devices, AR continues to sit slightly in the background of VR. The reason for this is not that AR is less important, but rather it is harder to achieve. IDC believes VR headsets will continue to lead in terms of volume throughout the forecast, but maintains that AR in general will have a much bigger impact overall on the industry. Consumers are very likely to have their first AR experience via a mobile phone or tablet rather than a dedicated headset, and Apple's recent introduction of ARKit further supports this.


IDC believes AR headsets will become increasingly popular in markets such as healthcare, manufacturing, field service workers, and design, with commercial shipments to account for just over 80 percent of all AR headsets shipped in the next 5 years. "We believe that many industrial jobs will fundamentally change because of AR in the next 5-years," said Ryan Reith, IDC program vice president. "These are much more opportunistic markets for dedicated AR headsets than the consumer market."

Mobile app developers have been sharing early creations using Apple's new ARKit, suggesting huge enthusiasm for the possibilities for AR on iOS devices. As for VR, Apple's enthusiasm was clear during its WWDC keynote, with the company showing off the power of its new iMacs through a live demo of VR content creation using a HTC Vive, made possible via a new Metal 2 developer kit that has provisions for external GPUs and VR headsets.

Related Roundup: Apple Glasses
Tags: IDC, ARKit

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
43 months ago
They also predicted windows phone would surpass iPhones.

VR/AR headsets may end up like 3D TVs, I wouldn't bet my money on them. Pokémon Go was cool for 2 weeks, and that's just an app that works on any phone.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
43 months ago

I think people look very foolish wearing these large headsets.

Didn't stop headphones from catching on.

Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
43 months ago
I still remember how big VR was somewhere around the end of 90's. It was predicted to be THE NEXT BIG THING by so many! And guess what? It never happened! The product was terrible - most of the VR helmets of that day caused you to throw up in no time. We even had this contest, who will survive longer. The record? About 7-8 minutes...
And that was one of the best products on the market, then.
Anyway. Do we need it? Nope.
Does anyone like to wear these silly contraptions? NOPE!
Does anyone care enough to buy not only the helmet, but also upgrade their hardware? OF COURSE NOT!

I am not saying, that the idea is doomed, it's just it's a niche product. And it always will be.

BTW: remember Google Glass? Exactly!
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
43 months ago

('https://www.macrumors.com/2017/06/20/vr-ar-headset-shipments-100m-units-by-2021-apple/')
On Monday, research firm IDC published new data ('http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170619005183/en/Worldwide-Shipments-Augmented-Reality-Virtual-Reality-Headsets') forecasting...

Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
43 months ago
Where is the CEO of Occulus now? I don't think he commented on the latest releases from Apple yet last year, he was scathing about Apple. Perhaps this is just another case of Apple taking their time and doing it better than anyone thought they would?
I wonder if the 'naysayers' realise just how easy Apple have made this stuff? Probably not...
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
43 months ago

Let me get this straight. The only computer Apple sells that'll be VR capable starts at US $5,000 and even that doesn't come out until November.

Yeah good luck with that!

The new consumer 27-inch iMacs support VR.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iOS 14 Widgets Offer iPhone Users Creative Home Screen Ideas

Sunday September 20, 2020 8:43 pm PDT by
Updated on September 22nd with hands on video. In iOS 14, Apple introduced ‌the concept of Home Screen‌ widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. Widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. Despite the relative lack of...

iPhone 12 Lineup Rumored to Be Named 'iPhone 12 mini,' 'iPhone 12,' 'iPhone 12 Pro,' and 'iPhone 12 Pro Max'

Monday September 21, 2020 5:24 am PDT by
Leaker known as "L0vetodream" has today shared the alleged naming for the upcoming iPhone 12 lineup on Twitter. The tweet proposes that the upcoming iPhone 12 models will be titled "iPhone 12 mini," "iPhone 12," "iPhone 12 Pro," and "iPhone 12 Pro Max." The names likely correspond to the three expected sizes of iPhone 12, with the 5.4-inch model being the iPhone 12 mini, the 6.7-inch model ...

PSA: New Apple Watch Owners Have to Return Entire Device for Ill-Fitting Solo Loop or Braided Solo Loop

Monday September 21, 2020 3:26 pm PDT by
With the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple introduced two new band options, the Solo Loop and the Braided Solo Loop. These new bands are unique because they have no clasps, buckles, or other fasteners, and instead use a stretch design to allow them to pull onto the wrist over the hand. Because these bands are not adjustable, Apple sells each one in nine different sizes to make sure each person...

Apple Releases First Public Betas of iOS 14.2 and iPadOS 14.2 With New Shazam Control Center Options

Monday September 21, 2020 10:34 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the first public betas of upcoming iOS 14.2 and iPadOS 14.2 updates to its public beta testing group, a few days after seeding the first betas to developers and a little less than a week after releasing the iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 updates. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing program can download the iOS and iPadOS‌ 14.2 updates over the air after ...

Kuo: Apple to Accelerate Adoption of Mini-LED Displays in iPad and Mac Notebook Lineups

Sunday September 20, 2020 10:00 pm PDT by
Increased competition among Apple's suppliers for mini-LED display chips will accelerate the company's adoption of the advanced technology in its iPad and MacBook lineups, according to a new research note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo seen by MacRumors. Kuo says that while Epistar had been predicted to be the exclusive supplier of mini-LED chips for Apple products in 2021, Sanan Optoelectronics...

AirPods Studio Rumored to Come With U1 Chip, Ultra-Wideband Said to Be Vital to Future Apple Ecosystem

Sunday September 20, 2020 6:17 am PDT by
Proven leaker known as "L0vetodream" has today shared a range of information about the ultra-wideband U1 chip in Apple's upcoming AirTags item trackers and AirPods Studio headphones. The first of a series of tweets shared today simply stated that AirPods Studio will contain an ultra-wideband U1 chip. It seems likely that the U1 chip would be used in AirPods Studio to track the location of...

AT&T Already Working on 6G, Says 5G iPhones Might Not Be 'Massive Event' Due to Economic Uncertainty

Monday September 21, 2020 10:05 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming launch of 5G iPhones might not be a "massive event" due to economic uncertainty amid the global health crisis, AT&T Communications CEO Jeff McElfresh said in a paywalled interview published by CNBC. "I do believe that you will see many of the iPhone subscribers move to upgrade to the device," said McElfresh. "But I wouldn't forecast that it's going to be a massive event. I...

Microsoft Announces Outlook for Mac Redesign, Improvements to iOS and watchOS Apps

Tuesday September 22, 2020 8:56 am PDT by
Microsoft has today announced plans to bring a new design to its Outlook for Mac app along with several other improvements and features for Outlook on iOS and watchOS. In preparation for the public release of macOS Big Sur, Microsoft has been testing a new design for Outlook on Mac. The design includes Microsoft's Fluent icons and several design cues from Big Sur such as rounded corners....

iOS 14 Adoption Surpasses 25% Across iPhone and iPad Five Days After Release

Monday September 21, 2020 9:06 am PDT by
Five days after Apple released iOS 14, adoption of the software update has reached approximately 26 percent of active iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices, according to mobile analytics company Mixpanel. This includes iPadOS 14. iOS 14 adoption appears to be outpacing iOS 13, which was installed on approximately 20 percent of active devices one week after its release last year, according to...

When Will the iPhone 12 Launch? Here's What We Know

Wednesday September 16, 2020 6:12 am PDT by
Yesterday's "Time Flies" Apple event saw the release of the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, iPad 8, and iPad Air 4, but no new iPhone models. Rumors before the event strongly alleged that it would not see the unveiling of new iPhones, with many reports pointing to an October launch. The lack of new iPhone models yesterday seems to confirm that the iPhone 12 lineup will not appear...