Will 2016 prove to be the year virtual reality blooms?

Photo credit: Maurizio Pesce/Flickr

Photo credit: Maurizio Pesce/Flickr

If you follow the news surrounding virtual reality, you may have encountered a recent study from Horizon Media which found that “despite extensive media coverage of Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard and other virtual reality devices, fully two thirds of consumers are unaware of the technology.”

The study appears to reinforce the claims of those doubters who, in the face of widespread reports that 2016 will be the ‘Year of VR,’ have dismissed the technology as either a fad or not there yet. The exorbitant announced prices for both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive will further bolster their claims, and while more affordable options like Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear offer great potential for broadening awareness (as we discussed last week), even their staunchest supporters won’t suggest they provide the highest quality experience.

So will 2016 be a watershed year for virtual reality, or are the predictions misplaced? While average shoppers may not plan to break the bank on high-end platforms, 2016 is almost certainly the year that VR will become an accepted medium, an understood commodity. No longer relegated to annals of science fiction, virtual reality is steadily making its mark as an attainable and accessible concept, which is the first step on its journey to becoming a common home appliance.

While Horizon Media’s study showed a surprising lack of public awareness of the major VR devices, it’s important to note that virtual reality as a wider concept was less mysterious. Eighty-two per cent of respondents called VR “an exciting new innovation to own,” and 81 per cent believed that “five years from now, anywhere from a quarter to half of the population will own a VR device.” Further, Mashable recently reported that a 2015 survey by Touchstone Research and Greenlight VR found “95 per cent of people were aware of VR, and 55 per cent of those said they were likely to purchase a VR device in 2016.”

As such, VR enthusiasts shouldn’t fret when the Oculus doesn’t fly off the shelves in record numbers this year. Its release, along with the release of several other high-end platforms, is a watermark moment; a jumping off point which will lead to far bigger things.

To illustrate this point, take a look at the people around you next time you’re on a city bus. How many are scrolling through Facebook, playing games, or checking the news on their smartphones? Nine or ten years ago, the idea of nearly 80 per cent of the (US) population owning a multi-use cellphone as powerful as a small computer would have seemed wondrous. Today it’s a fact of life. Some analysts believe virtual reality will follow a similar path.

“We think the VR [virtual reality] ecosystem is in its ‘2007-smartphone’ moment in terms of the adoption cycle,” said Deutsche Bank AG analyst Ross Sandler, according to Bloomberg Business. “It took four to five years for smartphones to reach 100 million users in the U.S., we expect a slower adoption curve for VR, but still strong enough for an enormous market.”

How enormous? Enough, at least, for powerful companies like Alphabet, Apple, and Amazon (alliteration not intended) to jump headfirst into the field. Goldman Sachs believes virtual reality will be an $80-billion market by 2025, and could be worth as much as $182-billion. According to Bloomberg Business, while GS thinks it will take longer for consumers to adopt VR than smartphones and tablets, they believe that “as the technology advances, price points decline, and an entire new marketplace of applications (both business and consumer) hit the market, we believe VR/AR has the potential to spawn a multibillion-dollar industry, and possibly be as game changing as the advent of the PC.”

At VusionVR, 2016 has already been an exciting year. We’re excited to grow as the industry grows, by offering immersive, exciting marketing opportunities for forward-thinking brands.