Virtual Reality Headset Interest Gaining, Purchase Intentions Nearly Doubled in One Year

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Nine percent (about one in 11) U.S. broadband households intend to purchase a virtual reality (VR) headset in the next year, according to new market research from Parks Associates.

VR purchase intentions among U.S. broadband households have nearly doubled since early 2016 when just 5% of survey respondents said they intended to buy a VR headset, Parks highlights in a report.

According to Parks researcher Hunter Sappington, the VR market (broadly speaking) is in its infancy.

Industry participants are looking to VR devices as an emerging driver of broader consumer CE market growth amidst slowing growth or outright declines in sales of longstanding market-leading consumer connected devices, such as smartphones and personal computers.

“VR has the potential to breathe new life into important CE device categories that have reached saturation, but challenges are hindering wider adoption,” Sappington said.

“Familiarity is low, with fewer than 13% of consumers having experienced VR first hand. The evolution of multiple players, each with their own approach to headset hardware, has resulted in a fragmented marketplace, which affects both content availability and future innovation.”

Caveats noted, the VR market is growing year-to-year, both in terms of actual purchase and purchase intentions. Furthermore, Parks expects to see significant changes in VR technology in the next two to three years, including the introduction of eye tracking and integration of mixed reality into the VR experience.

Turning to use cases, playing video games topped the list of VR use cases, according to Parks’ survey results. Watching entertainment videos, taking virtual tours or travel, watching live events (e.g. sports, concerts, etc.) and social interaction rounded out the top five.

Among OEMs, Samsung’s Gear VR is the market leader, with 31% of those who said they had bought a VR headset in 2016 saying they bought Samsung VR. Sony’s PlayStation VR ranked second at 12%.

All told Parks forecasts some 24 million households worldwide will have at least one VR device by the end of this year and 77 million will by 2021.

“Virtual reality has the potential to impact multiple industries beyond entertainment with its versatility and ever-increasing applications, including health, education, and industrial design,” said Parks’ research analyst Tu Skuse.

“Gaming is, by far, the leading use case, but potential VR buyers are also showing interest in videos, virtual sports stadiums, and virtual tours. Players like Google, Samsung, and Facebook are pushing VR into new areas, including content, mobile, and social use cases. As headsets become increasingly available and users experience VR for themselves, interest will grow. An expanding base of users will be key in motivating hardware makers, retailers, content producers, and service providers to continue to invest in this promising technology.”

In recent, related market research IDC reported sales of augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) headsets picked up steam in 1Q 2017. The market research company expects the AR/VR market will grow at a triple-digit rate for 2017 as a whole.

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