back to article VR headsets to shift 30 million units a year by 2027, vastly behind wearables

Analyst firm IDC has forecast strong growth for virtual reality headwear, but even stronger growth for more modest wearables, with the latter to vastly outsell the former for years to come. But before shipments of VR kit grow, vendors have to deal with a horror 2023 in which the analysts last week found quantities of augmented …

  1. Yorick Hunt

    Gimme what they're smoking!

    These predictions have been made every few years since the early 1990s and despite society generally getting further dumbed down in the meantime, there's no way they're going to deliver that many units unless they start giving them away.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Gimme what they're smoking!

      Sounds to me like they are banking on the "Apple is entering the market therefore growth must be around the corner". Obviously Apple won't sell 30 million at $3500, though given that it is called "Vision Pro" I expect a non Pro version in a couple years that costs significantly less as economies of scale help with the cost of the expensive stuff like the displays.

      But unless Apple comes up with a killer app (not necessarily something that makes everyone want to do AR/VR, but at least makes more than just gamers and geeks want it) it is hard to see the market growing near as quickly as IDC predicts.

      1. hittitezombie

        Re: Gimme what they're smoking!

        You can't get cheaper than a Google Cardboard, and that was a flop too.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: Gimme what they're smoking!

          That flopped because it was a complete and total piece of shit, not fit for even the most casual of usage.

  2. b0llchit Silver badge

    Magical thinking and hype factory

    Nice report you got there, who paid for it?

    In all the past years VR has not been the huge success everybody hoped. And now, magically, within four years, the shipments of kit will almost quadruple? Do they know of the killer-app that a) nobody can live without and b) will pay an arm and a leg for to become part of?

    Yeah, right.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Magical thinking and hype factory

      Yeah, good VR games are actually a blast.

      However... the fun VR games have all been shut down by Microsoft and Sony. I don't know WTF they think they're doing.

      And the good Oculus headsets have been locked away by arsebook. Otherwise I would have bought one.

      It's not that it needs a killer app... they need ANY decent app that isn't a total dumbed-down moneygrab.

      I've always said something like Kerbal Space Program would have been a killer VR app. The "Eyes of a Kerbal" mod gives you a taste, but actually getting out of a capsule, climbing down a ladder and walking over the see the gas giant looming over the moon you've landed on in VR would have been spectacular.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Magical thinking and hype factory

        Walking in VR is still nauseating for many people, the moment you go further than your physical room.

        There's a reason why almost all of the successful VR games fling things at a more or less stationary player.

        With a few spectacular exceptions, like Eye of the Temple, any virtual space larger than around 2m x 2m has to use teleportation to move the player or else the majority of potential players will simply vomit.

    2. Rob Fisher

      Re: Magical thinking and hype factory

      There's a killer app that people pay a fortune for: flight sims and driving sims. But only weird niche hobbyists can't live without it. Still, there's a lot of headset development going on just for that market.

      1. Binraider Silver badge

        Re: Magical thinking and hype factory

        Even then, the niche market that is something like DCS in VR is horrid due to the hundreds of in-cockpit clickable switches. A HOTAS covers the major controls obviously, but beyond that it's a major problem.

        Some VR hand controllers let you operate a virtual hand in cockpit, but how do you successfully combine the hand controller with the HOTAS, or switch between them?

        The feedback on visuals is amazing, and in a straight dogfight maintaining visual is essential to be any good at it. The limitations of controls mean many players prefer the now-ancient and hard to get TrackIR.

        Elite Dangerous (was) nice in VR, and playable fully with a HOTAS. Though Frontier have killed the game with ill thought out attempts to make a (bad) FPS out of it. The Odyssey farce really messed with the VR support. FDEV's share price following the extensive screwup is not an accident, as are the stats for player count plummetting.

        Cost of entry is a barrier to anyone but the dedicated and so VR will never be mainstream. Though I do appreciate the option existing.

        1. chriskno

          Re: Magical thinking and hype factory

          Could you explain what HOTAS is please.

          1. Binraider Silver badge

            Re: Magical thinking and hype factory

            Hands-on-throttle and Stick; something like the Thrustmaster Warthog


            I hadn't realised the prices on such equipment had gone quite so bonkers. Seem to be retailing for about double what they were 18 months ago.

  3. Andy Non Silver badge

    Still too expensive

    for general use. I've been a keen gamer since the days of the original DOS based Doom. I'm now retired and recently treated myself to a Playstation 5 with VR2 headset and controllers. Been playing Horizon Call of the Mountain which is fantastic in 3D game play. However, the setup cost over a grand, and there aren't that many VR games out there yet, making it a bit of a luxury. Can't see it becoming mainstream until the price comes down and there are more games available for it.

    1. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: Still too expensive

      Maybe the small, but stable, market for VR headsets will be training programs, not games. Maybe headset price isn't so critical if you're trying to teach folks to fix nuclear reactors or land aircraft at night on an aircraft carrier. My guess is that even at a few thousand per unit, time on a VR simulator is a lot cheaper than time on a real flight simulator. Or a real aircraft. Or, God help us all, on real nuclear reactors.

      That assumes that VR is actually effective in training.

      30 million a year? Maybe. I suppose. If they start being used in schools. And they aren't all that durable.

  4. karlkarl Silver badge

    Even worse figures. Only a small percentage of those headsets are useful. Most are locked down landfillware.

  5. Barry Rueger

    For sure, this time! (I repeat)

    I remember when everyone was going to wear glasses to watch 3D TV...

    I remember when everyone was going to wear Google Glass...

    I remember at least a few other companies flogging some kind of 3D VR goggles...

    And most recently I remember when Facebook was going to change the world with Meta goggles...

    Then Apple..

    But surely THIS time!

  6. spold Silver badge

    Same story different decade....

    I was the manager for Virtual Reality headsets for IBM in 1995 - the actual hardware was produced by a small UK company called Virtuality. It was well ahead of its time (problem #1). It started with game experiences but aspired to professional ones of which there were many one-offs (problem #2 - you don't need many headsets for the professional ones). It had 6D tracking (x,y,z, yaw, pitch, roll), it had stereoscopic directional sound and adjustable vision focus, and it didn't look like someone glued a badly made diving mask to your head. Problem #3 configuration for a stable experience based on the electromagnetic source was difficult. Problem #4 it was difficult to keep the engineers in check who kept developing newer and better versions before you had made any profit on the last version. Problem #5 (the worst) - little Jimmy spends all his time in virtual worlds and now needs glasses (he would have anyway) - lawyers salivate, class action lawsuits! OK back in the day the graphics were sub-VGA (but OK given it was in your face), that one is solved these days - back then it took 6 RISC chips glued to a PC card. Problem #6 - experience developers were unfamiliar with the medium, many were used to first person shooter linear experiences, they didn't understand that if you were not looking in the right direction it didn't happen. Most of these problems still exist, add to it the problems of privacy and what happens in the "metaverse".

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One line of text is all I want...

    All I want are for my prescription glasses to have a single line of text or numbers e.g. meter readings.

    I was hoping Bosch were about to deliver, but now they are 2 years late, and the short form brochure has vanished...

  8. trevorde Silver badge

    Virtual Reality Apathy

    Worked on a product many years ago which supported various stereoscopic goggles. I took a support call from one vendor of these goggles that they no longer worked with our product. I forwarded it on to our graphics guy, who quickly found and fixed the issue. He said the functionality had been broken for about 4 years (!).

  9. TeeCee Gold badge

    Analyst firm IDC has forecast strong growth for virtual reality headwear

    God forbid they just pulled the figures out of their arses.

    I mean, what if some well-meaning business tooled up to produce these things and found there wasn't a market? People could lose their livelyhoods.

    Just out of interest, is there actually any difference between an "industry analyst" and a "tabloid astrologer"?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Reputation and legitimacy.

      1. Freddie

        I dissagree; tabloid astrologers have neither reputation nor legitimacy.

  10. steviebuk Silver badge

    Just no

    I hadn't tried VR for years. When I first saw the Oculas I thought it was a joke as they were scuba goggles. I remember VR in the 90s, tried the big helmet ones once in Trocadero in London, back when it had Alien War on the same floor and Sega World on the top. Wasn't impressed back then but glad had a go.

    This time round my nephew has an Oculas and I finally decided to try it. Did look really good but then made myself ill by stupidly going on the roller coaster. Got motion sickness for the rest of the night so went to bed early :) not bothered to try it again since.

    1. Rob Fisher

      Re: Just no

      I wanted to do SIM racing but was getting motion sickness. It turns out you can train yourself out of it: drive slowly in a car with a roof around an oval. As soon as you feel the first hint of a symptom stop. Do it again the next night - you can go for longer. After a week I was doing 20 lap races around proper circuits.

      It's still a niche hobby, though, I'm not suggesting the mainstream are going to bother with all that.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AR 1.0

    Still more than sufficient for me thanks.

  12. imanidiot Silver badge

    I'm probably in the niche

    I'd like a VR headset for sim flying and racing but I have for a long time been turned off by the large up-front investment (also for a GPU which was for some time more expensive than the actual headset. I'd also like it to have the option of room-scale VR. My goal for some time was a Valve Index, but that hardware is getting a bit long in the tooth and there doesn't seem to be an update on the horizon. I refuse to buy anything Meta related so that is the Quest out. That doesn't leave a whole lot of other hardware it seems. And apart from Oculus/Meta, none of them seem to be working on upgraded hardware.

  13. mpi Silver badge

    I said it before, I shall say it again

    There will be no breakthrough in the VR market, until the devices stop looking like giant scuba diving masks.


    The tech simply isn't where people need it to be. Giant expensive headsets, clumsy controllers, the whole setup unsuitable for outdoor use, an overfocus on VR over AR, missing integration with existing input methods, too much walled garden, too complicated setups outside of the intended suecase

    As long as these issues are not fixed, it will remain a niche technology.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: I said it before, I shall say it again

      Unless we somehow learn to magically manipulate photons from a distance or develop photonic displays that can emit photons in a selectable direction and polarization, that's simply never going to happen. You need a certain distance between the displays and the lenses and from the lenses to the eyeballs. And shield from outside light to prevent the relatively weak displays from being washed out by outside light. That basically automatically results in the "ski goggles"/"diving mask" look.

    2. spold Silver badge

      Re: I said it before, I shall say it again's OK - soon you will just jack things into Musk's Neuralink socket on the back of your neck.

    3. chriskno

      Re: I said it before, I shall say it again

      I liked "suecase", but quickly realised you meant usecase.

  14. hittitezombie

    So 30 million vs 2.9 BILLION Facebook users?

    Looks like the word Meta is a metaphor for failure.

  15. User McUser

    Earwear... really??

    350 million units fewer than the "earwear" sub-category of the wearables market

    Earwear?? Look, unless this includes USB ear warmers and BT enabled LED earrings let's just call this category "headphones," yeah?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perfect for Incels

    and gamers

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