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Shipments of virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices have surged worldwide. Low-cost smartphone VR technologies are leading the way in terms of consumer adoption, but commercial uses will drive a significant amount of growth going forward.
According to a new report from the International Data Corporation (IDC), there were 9.2 million VR headsets shipped globally in 2016, the majority of them consumer products. That figure is expected to grow substantially in the coming years, reaching 67.1 million by 2021.
For AR, the IDC sees a contrasting story, with even more dramatic growth (albeit from a very small base), and gains overwhelmingly driven by commercial use. More than two-thirds (68%) of last year’s AR shipments were commercial. By 2021, IDC projects that more than eight in 10 AR shipments (83%) will be commercial.
“We believe that many industrial jobs will fundamentally change because of AR in the next five years,” said Ryan Reith, program vice president for IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers.
VR completely immerses a user inside a virtual world or experience, typically through the use of a head-mounted display (HMD). While VR is fully immersive, AR involves overlaying virtual objects and other types of digital information over the real world, and can be delivered through hardware like smartphones, tablets and HMDs.
IDC is hardly alone in foreseeing the commercial uses for both AR and VR. A separate study from Grand View Research, released yesterday, predicted the AR and VR market for healthcare will be worth $5.1 billion by 2025. The market is being driven by applications including surgical simulations and diagnostic imaging, according to Grand View.
eMarketer estimates that more than 30 million people in the US used AR technology last year, including things like Snapchat Lenses, Pokémon Go and other enterprise applications. The number of users is expected to grow from 40 million this year to more than 54 million by 2019.
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