Virtual reality (VR) took a step forward at the 2016 GSMA Mobile World Congress (MWC). At the Samsung S7 launch, Mark Zuckerberg spoke of the Oculus/Samsung partnership and the rising popularity of 360-degree video. HTC’s VIVE showed continued maturity in its adeptness for PC gamers, and Google Cardboard won for Best Mobile App (Judge’s Choice) at the GSMA 2016 Glomo Awards. Given the market’s current growth trajectory, ABI Research, the leader in transformative technology innovation market intelligence, anticipates mobile VR device shipments to hit more than 50 million by 2020, an impressive CAGR of 84.5%.
To many in the industry, Google Cardboard served as the ultimate launch pad for the now rapidly growing, if nascent, ecosystem for low-cost VR. In fact, Google recently announced that the company hit a milestone of 5 million Cardboard shipments this January, since its debut at Google I/0 2014.
“The VR content ecosystem is opening up to include casual and traditional VR gaming, as well as education experiences,” says Sam Rosen, Managing Director and Vice President at ABI Research and 2016 Glomo Awards judge. “360-degree video also saw notable investment from Facebook and YouTube, pointing to another promising VR growth opportunity. While content developers are still learning how consumers engage with mobile-reliant VR systems, VR in core gaming and augmented reality are on well-defined growth trajectories.”
As the ecosystem expands, a growing number of vendors are releasing their own VR accessories as a value-add to their smartphones. At MWC 2016, Samsung announced its new flagship smartphones, the S7 and S7 Edge, with the addendum that all preorders for the devices be bundled with Samsung’s new Gear VR. Similarly, LG announced it will offer hardware modules built to improve certain aspects of its new G5 phone, and also revealed a VR accessory in the LG 360 VR.
“Smartphones are the perfect platform for the VR market, because they already have the power and technological functionality necessary to create a fun, in-depth simulated environment,” concludes Eric Abbruzzese, Research Analyst at ABI Research. “As their capabilities continue to evolve, we anticipate high-end VR, which is currently exclusive to PC and game consoles, to expand to mobile-powered uses by 2020. Google Cardboard is just the beginning; in the years to come, independent growth across major markets, including mobile devices, wearables, gaming, advertising, and data, will all synergize and power the next stage of transformational growth in mobile VR.”
These findings are part of ABI Research’s Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Service, which includes research reports, market data, insights, and competitive assessments.
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