back to article By 2026, total AR/VR goggle sales will trail a single quarter of current tablet shipments

Analyst firm IDC has crunched the numbers for sales of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets and found they’re not going to be a big seller any time soon – at least compared to conventional computing devices. The firm found 2022 will go down as a stinker of a year for the electro-goggles, with global …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    VR can not and will not be mainstream in its current form. It isn't a matter of volume pricing; it is a matter of total investment per user required, and the fact that each person is completely isolated from the other in their VR surreality. What a horrible thing to attempt to do to the family home dynamic! :(

    1. Steve Button Silver badge
      Joke

      It's not just the pricing, it's the weight of the damned things. As reported they "... will be bigger than gaming consoles"

      I tested this earlier with some gaffer tape and my PS5 and after 1/2 hour I had a really stiff neck.

      Maybe I'm doing it wrong?

      On a more serious note, they also make 1/2 my family feel like they will actually vomit, same with 3D movies. This is why I'm a BIG FAN of 3D movies... because it leaves more seats free in the 2D movie for me and my family.

      1. Helcat Bronze badge

        I thought the cause of sickness is due to not having a static point of reference when viewing a moving scene. This is normally our own nose. Thought they'd proven it, too...

        But that's from an old study: May well be out of date on that.

        Anyway, I think VR does have promise, but I agree the price is prohibitive if you're after a decent rig, and there needs to be more applications for VR developed than just gaming if it's to really take off outside of specialist areas such as training emergency services or soldiers.

        After all, PC's saw a massive surge in popularity and quick development in graphics quality when the adult interest took an interest and started pushing their wares to PC's...

        Just sayin'

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      > VR can not and will not be mainstream in its current form

      Indeed. The same could have said, just as truly, about tablet computers in 2005. People could kinda see how a Win XP TE device might occasionally be useful for some tasks but also saw that they weighed a lot and had limited battery. So people largely didn't bother. They didn't take off. But with just some evolutions of CPU efficiency, battery and screen technologies, the form factor has done well. The pros outweighed the faff.

      Notably, the market at that time, though small, did exist for tablets. Digital artists were paying to have a company called Modbook retrofit Wacom touchscreens to their Macbooks. WinXP TE tablets were used for surveying or for controlling machines.

      Perhaps the pros of AR will come to outweigh the faff for many consumer. In the time, there are niche users for whom this is already true.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. iron Silver badge

        Tablet computers don't make you sick. They don't prevent you from seeing the room around you. They don't prevent you from interacting with people around you and they don't require you to sell your soul to Zuck. VR is not comparable to tablets.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          You've missed the point @iron, but thank you for pointing out that 2005-era tablets didn't have the same shortcomings as the VR goggles of 2022 do.

          2005-era tablets had their own shortcomings, which, when improved in the subsequent years, changed the balance of utility versus faff to a point where many more people bought and used them.

          The current shortcomings of VR you list aren't necessarily inherent to the concept. I don't feel sick looking at the real world, suggesting there is a level of visial fidelity / refresh / focus that doesn't make me sick... It's not immediately obvious to me that technology can't advance closer to this ideal, perhaps past a threshold that is comfortable for most people.

          VR can stop you interacting with people around you, true. But so do books, quiet rooms, earphones, sunglasses, hooded sweatshirts, and long walks... It can be a feature, not a bug.

          But then AR might actually aid interactions with people, as a whiteboard or a boardgame does.

          As for Zuck? I didn't mention Meta or Occulus, (nor would I buy their products, of course) because I was talking about the future in general when other VR / AR systems will be available. If I was a betting man, I'd put money on Apple's MKII or III AR product succeeding over Meta's. Apple have the chips, the vertical integration, a better reputation for privacy, a better reputation for knowing which consumers have spare cash, etc etc. (Their MK I device is widely rumoured to be very expensive and aimed studios developing AR content - not a mass market product. )

          [Upon re-reading my previous comment I see I led with VR and ended with AR, which may have confused. My apologies. ]

  2. jmch Silver badge

    No Surprise

    No matter how good the technology gets, it's still based around fooling the brain into thinking that something 5cm away from your eye has any depth, and for a significant chunk of people that's headache-inducing after a while. It also can't really work with motion, because if the brain thinks that the body is moving through a space while it can simultaneously feel that the body is not, it induces seasickness and nausea. And if you're just going to use it to turn your head around to see different things, might as well just have a giant monitor which is far simpler and probably cheaper

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: No Surprise

      There's been a lot of research into this, and just like with mouse pointers, techniques have been found.

      Room-scale VR with teleporting mostly solves the movement problem - turns out that most people are ok with teleporting, and you only need to be able to take a couple of steps to maintain immersion.

      The required minimum framerate and tracking rates also turned out to be a lot higher than initially presumed. It's likely that a lot of people who were affected by the early technology will be fine with the newer stuff.

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: No Surprise

        "Room-scale VR with teleporting mostly solves the movement problem..."

        ...which neatly circles back to the problem of space and affordability for mainstream consumer use.

  3. Richard 12 Silver badge

    No it isn't

    "Augmented reality has long been the domain of standalone headsets geared towards commercial use, helping to transform the way companies train their workers,"

    That's utter rubbish.

    The Quest 2 has 85% of the market, and it's almost exclusively used for gaming.

    Prior to that, there were several bespoke "backpack PCs" with VR headsets. These were commercially used - for entertainment.

    The standalone "commercial use" headsets are universally a failure. VR/AR is >99% entertainment.

    Which is absolutely fine, entertainment is a massive market.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: No it isn't

      > That's utter rubbish

      The article said Augmented Reality was geared to commercial use. You refuted it by talking about Virtual Reality. Perhaps you misread?

      Head-mounted AR (as opposed to say Pokémon Go on a tablet) has not yet been successful amongst consumers, largely because overlaying CGI over what a user sees of reality is very hard to do from an optical engineering perspective - so devices currently have poor image quality and are expensive compared to VR. Lots of money is being spent to close this gap, however.

      AR is, however, already used in industrial and military settings.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No it isn't

      The Quest 2 has 85% of the market, and it's almost exclusively used for gaming.

      I'm guessing a significant proportion of them are used for porn.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: No it isn't

      > "Augmented reality has long been the domain of standalone headsets geared towards commercial use... "

      >That's utter rubbish. The Quest 2 has 85% of the market

      The Quest 2 is a VR device, the paragraph you refuted was about AR.

      VR, all light entering your eyes is from a computer display.

      AR, you see the world around you as you normally would, but with computer generated imagery superimposed on top. AR is much harder to accomplish technically, but it has found applications in industry.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe this metaverse thing has legs

    Maybe this metaverse thing will go the same way as 3D-TV*, Google Glass and Segway. Please stop taking inspiration from Hollywood movies and kids games.

    * 2D-TV (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2DTV) is a classic though.

  5. pinkmouse

    Hmmm. So VR kit matched sales of consoles over the past couple of years. Perhaps because you couldn't actually buy a console over the past two years?

  6. mpi Silver badge

    Yes, and there is a reason for that: What's still the only usecase for VR that actually attracts sizeable crowds? Gaming.

    And gaming is a hard market to get into as a new platform: On one side, VR is up against several DECADES worth of experience to make high quality games presented on a flat screen and controlled with high precision input devices. And on the other side it's up against games that can be played on handheld devices with a day or more worth of battery charge, which we can use standing in the subway train, and stuff in our pockets when we are done.

    And both these devices are useful in other scenarios: We work with our computers, we communicate via our phones, we use them to browse, store information, consume written/video/audio content, write software...when was the last time you put on a VR headset to look up the correct spelling of "Aardvark" or order groceries?

    VR still lacks a killer-application, something that only it can deliver and is so desireable that the upfront cost and inconveniences of the devices no longer matter. Unless such an application is found, the devices themselves need to get a lot better: Smaller, with longer battery life, better interoparability with as many games as possible.

    1. Evil Scot

      No Killer app?

      Beat Sabres?

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      > high quality games presented on a flat screen and controlled with high precision input devices

      Or low precision input devices, in the case of the commercially successful Nintendo Wii.

      The Nintendo Wii did a few things differently from the PlayStation and Xboxes of the time, and did well for it.

  7. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Maybe there are going to be a lot more people buying VR kit in the next year, but a lot of people also bought 3D TVs but once the gimmick wore off they want back to consuming regular content, and I can see VR going the same way as it is kinda just a gimmick, and certainly i don't see it becoming mainstream.

    There are just too many hurdles for mass adoption of VR. The can't be used while on the move, so they are not going to take away market from devices like the Steam deck, Nintendo switch or mobile phone gaming that people can play on the bus or during their lunch break. Sure headsets can have AR where the real world is still visible around you, but even then they still need to convince the people it cool to wear a VR/AR headset, as at the moment there are a lot of people who wouldn't be seen wearing one as its deemed dorky.

    There is also the issue of motion sickness. Even on fair ground rides like the haunted swing at Blackpool where the room rotates but you stay still make me nauseous, so i wouldnt be going out to get hundreds of pounds of VR kit to find i can't use it for more than a few minutes without needing to stop to stop me wanting to vomit.

  8. SgtMcPain

    My eyes!

    Won't someone think about our eyes? Spending hours looking at a screen a few centimetres from your eyes is not going to do anyone any good. Doesn't anyone remember the Optigrab, ask Steve Martin if you don't!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "So maybe this whole metaverse thing has legs"

    You said it... don't forget you said it!

  10. Binraider Silver badge

    The cynic in me says everyone that wants one, probably already has one. What new software is there to alter the equation? Nope, nothing.

    Carmack is on to something quitting Meta before the whole thing collapses.

    I've dabbled with VR on occasion, and frankly the experience of jamming a monitor in your face is no more immersive than a big monitor. One has severe drawbacks the other is useful under almost all circumstances.

    1. Binraider Silver badge

      Downvoted by deluded VR investors presumably.

      The only games they really make sense for are flight sims which are these days somewhat niche and expensive to get into.

      VR over the top is a whole layer of other awkwardness - no visibility of your control surfaces and/or awkward 'virtual flicking switches with an un-natural controller'.

      Novelty value for an FPS is a thing, but not for long. Mouse/keyboard continues to dominate.

      And don't get me started on the business use bollocks. If I want a meeting with a client or team member, I'll either meet in person or use a video call. I'm not going to prat about with some virtual nonsense that offers zero advantages, ability to read body language etc.

      VR, short of a Schriebmann port (+1 if you get the reference) is, and always will be a novelty item. Nonsensical to pretend it's anything else.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love these "projections"...always wrong.

    For years I kept a whole bunch of these expensive "future market analysis reports" as a reminder of just how wrong they always are. There was not one single major change in the market over the decades that they did not miss. The two that stand out were 5 year market analysis reports (very expensive ones at the time) from early 1994 and from early 2006. From the biggest and "most reputable" names of the day. The first completely missed the rise of web. The second the rise of the smart phone. Yet anyone actually in the trenches at the time had a very good idea that something really big was about to happen.

    They also completely missed the huge shift in the console market in the mid 1990's. That was another very funny future trends report. And so on..

    I remember a whole bunch of these reports in the early 1990s about how VR was going to be a huge market by 2000. Just like the report I saw in 1986 that predicted the same for AI / Expert Systems by 1995..

    So these reports are good for a laugh and nothing else. Worthless.

    Now the market sector competitive analysis reports. With breakdowns of best estimates for revenue / expenses for private as well as public companies. Market share, revenue per product etc. Thats a very different story. The best reports were worth every penny of their often 5 figure cost when it came to competitor analysis, business / product planning and positioning etc. And I found their numbers were usually pretty accurate. Or at least plausible ball-park.

    Its always tough to make predictions. Especially about the future And especially if you nt any real clue about actual market dynamics or the tech involved.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I love these "projections"...always wrong.

      Typically I read the projections as "within a decade" meaning "within my lifetime" and "in 30 years" as "probably not until long after I'm dead."

      Projections are always optimistic because they're trying to attract investors.

  12. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    "And on current form, those developers will have to do things Mark Zuckerberg’s way, because Meta’s Quest 2 headset has owned 84.6 percent of the global AR/VR headset market during the first three quarters of 2022."

    But "on current form" the product is not selling.

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