The popularity of virtual reality (VR) systems such as Oculus Rift, Sony’s PlayStation VR, Microsoft’s HoloLens, and HTC’s Vive is poised to grow significantly over the next two years. Shipments of VR headsets are forecast to jump from just 140,000 in 2015 to 1.4 million in 2016, and up to 6.3 million in 2017, according to Gartner.
One industry that stands to benefit is software, as the headsets are creating demand for development of new 3D content. Software for VR headsets primarily includes video games and entertainment applications for consumers. Companies have developed games and videos for Oculus Rift, and Samsung and its partners are creating content for its Gear VR headset. Google, Nvidia, and Intel are some other big names that are exploring VR.
Meanwhile, more interactive technology is coming from smaller firms such as Meta and Two Bit Circus. A new entrant in the market, Magic Leap, has received an astounding $793.5 million in funding from heavyweights such as Alibaba, Google, and Qualcomm. Wired called the investment possibly the largest “C” round in Internet history. The cash gives Magic Leap a valuation of $4.5 billion — not too shabby for a company that has yet to release a product.
While gaming represents the main application for VR so far, emerging opportunities come from the academic and business worlds, for purposes such as training, simulation, and equipment troubleshooting. Examples include VR allowing medical students to explore human anatomy in 3D, or helping companies enhance their customer experiences through interactive product demos. By 2018 about a quarter of headsets will be for business use, according to Gartner.
Industry Impact: Demand for new 3D software for virtual reality headsets will increase as the use of VR becomes more commonplace among consumers, businesses, and academic institutions.
Amy Schein is an Industry Specialist at First Research, where she covers various aspects of the media industry. She earned her BS and MA in media studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Follow Amy on Twitter.