Obviously, VR is much easier to jump into right now than AR, with a selection of high-end and low-end VR headsets at a whole bunch of price points. AR, for the most part, is stuck on phones and tablets until headsets are affordable enough and good enough for mass markets.
A new report from IDC, however, is predicting when a switch between the two technologies will take place. The two of them together are set to boom in a major way in the next couple of years, going from 13.7 million units in 2017 to 81.2 million units in 2021. Until 2019, VR headsets will make up 90% of the market, with AR obviously accounting for the rest.
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VR has experienced a number of price reductions this year as the cost of manufacturing has gone down. New entrants like Microsoft and its Mixed Reality platform and Google with its standalone Daydream headsets, plus the ever-expanding list of mobile headsets like Gear VR, will continue to drive growth. However, IDC forecasts that mobile headsets are the most likely to lose out in the marketshare battle once affordable standalone headsets enter the area, though that is likely to happen closer to 2019.
As for AR? A lot of AR's growth will be accounted for in business and industrial use. Comparatively, in the overall AR market, IDC forecasts consumer AR will shrink from 29.9% of the AR market in 2017 to 17.5% in 2021. For example, consumer AR takes up 28.9% of the market in 2017. So while AR will be growing exponentially overall, consumer-grade AR will be outpaced by AR for commercial use by businesses.
Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst at IDC, said that most consumers will still experience AR on mobile devices, though "it's only a matter of time before Apple's ARKit and Google's ARCore-enabled apps make their way into consumer headsets." Basically, until consumer AR headsets are ready, business-based AR will own the AR market. And based on IDC's forecasts, consumer AR doesn't seem like it's due to grow a lot before 2021.
AR's commercial focus will carry a high price tag, as IDC predicts that AR headsets will account for $30 billion in revenue by 2021, double that of VR. Speaking of commercial focus, VR is also looking to gain ground in the commercial world, predicted to go from 21.8% of the market in 2017 to 27.8% in 2021 as companies turn to VR for training purposes.
So while VR is set to diversify, mature, and flourish in more ways than one, AR will still climb in the commercial space until consumer-grade headsets are ready for all of us and the switch is flipped.