New in OS X: Get MacRumors Push Notifications on your Mac

Resubscribe Now Close

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)

27 months ago

I think people look very foolish wearing these large headsets.


Didn't stop headphones from catching on.

Rating: 13 Votes
27 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.
Rating: 13 Votes
27 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!
Rating: 7 Votes
27 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...


Rating: 5 Votes
27 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.
Rating: 4 Votes
27 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...
Rating: 4 Votes
27 months ago

Thank you! That's all I've thought about VR when I see those clunky boxes you need strapped to your head. Seems like there's a legit application commercially, but for gaming, I'm personally not felling it and would rather have a controller in my hand--but I'm old :)


Well, I'm old too. 48 and I've been gaming since ti 99-4a days! ;-)

I can't tell you that VR brings gaming to a whole new level. I'll always been a fan of dungeon crawlers and other fantasy type games. One of the first VR games I played was Vanishing Realms which actually puts you IN the dungeon and swing swords and shooting bows and huge monsters right in front of you. It's the kind of thing you have to experience yourself. You'll also never want to play another racing or flight sim on a monitor again. I play a flight sim called Aerofly 2 and you actually feel like you are flying a plane. Same thing with Project Cars.

And does it really matter what you look like while playing? VR is a thing you do by yourself and nobody is going to want to sit and watch someone play in VR anyways.

VR is truly the future imho. Apple would be smart to come out with a VR/AR headset sooner rather than later.
Rating: 3 Votes
27 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!
Rating: 3 Votes
27 months ago
I recently purchased a PlayStation 4 Pro and PlayStation VR headset. I'm mid-40's and hadn't sat down to play a videogame in many, many years, but I was intrigued by the entire concept after taking a trip to Disney/Universal and experiencing some of the VR-based rides. I hadn't treated myself to splurging on a gadget in a long time, so I figured why not. I hemmed and hawed a bit because there was no place around where I could test it out ahead of time.

The experience is amazing and put a huge smile on my face the first day I played a couple of the demos. If you haven't tried it, don't knock it till you have.

Someone commented about the PSVR having a bad screendoor effect, and I believe this person is mistaken about what screendoor is. It's my understanding that the display tech the PSVR uses isn't subject to that, and I know that I haven't seen it. Mind you, the headset/display isn't perfect:

- Resolution is a little lower than I'd like it to be and the perimeter of your vision can look blurry/out-of-focus (I have to physically move my head around for any text in the perimeter to look sharp).
- The cable is cumbersome. I'll probably jury-rig something so that it floats behind me somehow so as to keep it out of the way. But you're not usually walking around too much (VIVE games may be different, but most PSVR games are designed for you to be stationary and just move your head around).
- The biggest issue I have is just not being able to see the real world around me without removing the headset, which then requires me to re-adjust it to get things into focus. It would be great if they put a camera on the outside of the headset so that you could push a button to temporarily pause your game/whatever and see the outside world without having to take the headset off.
- The other big problem I have is just navigating around the PlayStation UI. Specifically, I start a game and can't figure out how to get back to the main menu of the game (I can press the home button to get all the way back to the PS home screen, but often there seems to be no way to just go "back" to the in-app main menu.
- There's still a shortage of games, and prices are higher than I'm comfortable paying.
- I'd love to see the next iteration of the hardware improve resolution further, but I don't see how they'll be able to do higher resolution *and* wireless in the near future. It might be one or the other. I should note that contrary to some of the negative things I've read, or even my comments about blurriness above, even with the PSVR being a little lower-res and blurrier than I'd like, you can quickly get past that and get fully immersed in the experience, so it's not a deal-breaker.

The AR demo that Apple did got me to thinking that maybe an iPhone + cheap headset might be the future. They were moving the phone around and we saw the AR adjust (things getting bigger and perspective changing as they moved closer to the table). So it seems like the iPhone's hardware might be capable of delivering a good-enough experience. Everyone already owns their phone, so then they just need an inexpensive headset and external controller(s) so that you can bring your hands into the experience. And because the phone has a rear-mounted camera, they could implement something like I mentioned above to allow you to easily see the outside world.

Anyways, that's my hope...that we see a headset and external controller and not just AR apps/games designed to have you holding the phone (like the ones demoed by Apple). Those can be great, too, but the immersive experience of being inside of the VR world is another thing altogether.
Rating: 3 Votes
27 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.


I have no doubt in my mind that VR will be the future. I just don't think it is this generation of VR that will take us there.

It'll come back strong in 6-8 years after everybody is geeked about AR.
Rating: 3 Votes

[ Read All Comments ]