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.

iMac VR
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.

Screen Shot 7 2
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

ghost187 Avatar
71 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)
Jsameds Avatar
71 months ago
I think people look very foolish wearing these large headsets.
Didn't stop headphones from catching on.

Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mgmacius Avatar
71 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)
djcerla Avatar
71 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)
StevieD100 Avatar
71 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)
Telos101 Avatar
71 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)

Popular Stories

General Black Friday Deals 2022 Green

All the Apple Black Friday Deals You Can Still Get

Friday November 25, 2022 4:40 am PST by
Although Black Friday is now technically over, many Apple products are still seeing major discounts through the weekend as we head into Cyber Monday. In this article, you'll find every Apple device with a notable Black Friday sale that's still available. We'll be updating as prices change and new deals arrive, so be sure to keep an eye out if you don't see the sale you're looking for yet. Note:...
iphone 14 pro hands snowflakes 1

Best Cyber Monday iPhone Deals Available Today

Wednesday November 23, 2022 1:55 pm PST by
Cellular carriers have always offered big savings on the newest iPhone models during the holidays, and Cyber Monday is no different. We're tracking notable offers on the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro devices from AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. For even more savings, keep an eye on older models like the iPhone 13. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a...
maxresdefault

Nothing Phone 1 Displays AirPods Battery Level After Latest OS Update

Friday November 25, 2022 3:33 am PST by
Nothing Phone 1 users today began receiving the Nothing OS 1.1.7 update, which adds support for displaying the battery percentage of connected AirPods, amongst other improvements and bug fixes. If you own a Nothing Phone 1, you can check for the OTA update by going to Settings -> System -> System updates. Bear in mind that as support for displaying AirPods battery level is still an...
ipad holiday bulbs

Best Cyber Monday iPad Deals Available Today

Thursday November 24, 2022 12:25 pm PST by
Cyber Monday deals have been in full swing since Black Friday deals ended, and we're seeing solid discounts on Apple devices. We're highlighting the best sales for all of Apple's product lines, and in this article you'll find the best Cyber Monday sales on iPad, iPad Pro, iPad Air, and iPad mini. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make ...
airpods pro 2

Apple Engineer Addresses Lack of Lossless Support on New AirPods Pro

Friday November 25, 2022 2:58 am PST by
An Apple engineer has addressed the lack of lossless audio support in the second-generation AirPods Pro in a new interview. Current Bluetooth technology in the AirPods lineup means that Apple's audio products do not support Apple Music Lossless audio. Apple has previously hinted that it may develop its own codec and connectivity standard that builds on AirPlay and supports higher quality...
Cyber Monday Deals Feature 2022

Best Cyber Monday Apple Deals for AirPods, Apple TV 4K, iPad, More

Monday November 28, 2022 5:24 am PST by
Now that Black Friday is over, the internet's attention has shifted to Cyber Monday deals today. Of course, for Apple products this means that many of the deals you saw last week are basically the same today. Despite this repetition, it's a great chance for anyone who missed out on Black Friday deals to still get the year's best prices on many Apple devices. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate...
Apple Watch Ultra Oceanic Plus App

Apple Announces Oceanic+ App Now Available for Apple Watch Ultra

Monday November 28, 2022 6:11 am PST by
Apple today announced that the Oceanic+ app is available for the Apple Watch Ultra starting today. Designed by Huish Outdoors in collaboration with Apple, the app serves as a dive computer for recreational scuba diving at depths up to 40 meters/130 feet. Apple already offers a basic Depth app on the Apple Watch Ultra for viewing your current depth, maximum depth reached, water temperature,...
Three Biggest iPhone SE 4 Questions Feature

Three Biggest Questions About the iPhone SE 4

Saturday November 26, 2022 12:00 am PST by
While we already have some clear indications about what to expect from the fourth-generation iPhone SE, there are three major questions looming over the device at the current time. Chinese site MyDrivers and and leaker Jon Prosser believe that the iPhone SE is set to move to an iPhone XR-like design in its next incarnation, which would involve eliminating the Home button and adding a "notch" ...