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Burgeoning interest by enterprises in the use of virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR) to raise worker productivity as well as expanding immersive content choices for consumers could equal big sales in headsets, a new study suggests. According to a report by International Data Corp., total VR/AR headset device shipments are projected to reach 99.4 million units in 2021, and that’s reportedly up nearly 10-fold from the 10.1 million units shipped in 2016. This results in a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 58 percent across the five-year forecast period, the research says.

"2016 marked an important step for the AR and VR headset market with product finally arriving in end users' hands and on their heads," Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's AR/VR team, says. "While there was clear demand coming primarily from technology enthusiasts, what became readily apparent were the use cases for enterprise users across multiple verticals and for consumers with gaming and content consumption. This sets the stage for the multiple aspects of the market that device makers, platforms and content providers, and developers will be addressing in the months and years to come."

IDC notes that although AR remains as the minority portion of the market in terms of shipments, these headsets are expected to bring in significantly more revenue over the course of the forecast as the value of AR headsets grows from $209 million in 2016 to $48.7 billion in 2021. Meanwhile, VR headsets are predicted to grow from $2.1 billion in 2016 to $18.6 billion in 2021.

"With all the technological enhancements, there will be a wide range of products and price points," Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC's Mobile Device Trackers, observes. "VR setups already range from sub-$100 to more than $1,000 and though it's too early to tell, the low-cost experiences may prove to be inhibitors rather than promoters of the technology as they can potentially disappoint first time VR users.”

Ubrani does also point out that due to the sophistication of the hardware, most AR headsets are expected to cost well over $1,000. "This makes the technology far less accessible to consumers initially, though that's probably for the best as the AR ecosystem and wide social acceptance are still a few years away," he concludes.

More information on the research is available here.

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