Forthcoming Standalone Virtual Reality Devices to Extend Opportunity Beyond Mobile and Tethered VR

17 May 2016

When Samsung announced its plans to build a standalone successor to its Gear VR, ABI Research, the leader in transformative technology innovation market intelligence, was quick to suggest that this device would help build a bridge between mobile and tethered virtual reality (VR). The upcoming device, along with like-minded imminent products from Apple and Google, will address a largely untapped portion of the VR market, hitting a sweet spot for consumers with low cost, efficient performance, and ease of use. The first opportunity to see these new devices will be at the upcoming Google I/O, where the company is likely to reveal not only a new VR device but also new VR features in Android OS.

“Given Samsung’s recent announcement unveiling its plans to build a standalone successor to the Gear VR, it will be interesting to watch other technology giants join this VR market movement,” says Eric Abbruzzese, Senior Analyst at ABI Research. “Major players like Apple, Google, and Samsung are increasing their VR involvement and moving in this standalone direction.”

ABI Research expects standalone VR devices to see a 95.4% CAGR through 2021, which is higher than mobile VR devices. They will likely cost between $300 and $500 initially, depending on specification. This will position them to be more expensive than mobile-reliant HMDs, such as Gear VR, but below tethered devices like the Oculus Rift, especially given their reliance on already expensive PCs or game consoles.

The shift to lower-cost, standalone VR devices highlights a few major obstacles currently facing the VR market. In the mobile space, heat and battery life are major concerns. Meanwhile, cost and portability are holding back high-end tethered VR from reaching its full potential. Middle-ground devices like the eventual Samsung and rumored Google products will help alleviate some of these obstacles by targeting lower prices than tethered VR and higher performance than mobile VR, as well as offer high quality VR experiences to a larger audience. While shipment numbers may be low compared to mobile VR, these new standalone VR products will drive growth in the category, and will overtake mobile VR in terms of revenue despite lower shipment numbers (US$ 4.48 billion in 2021 for standalone, and US$ 1.11 billion for mobile).

But Google and Samsung are not the only two companies showing marked innovation in the swiftly shifting market landscape. Mixed reality (MR), classified as a midway between augmented reality (AR) and VR, is taking off with both Microsoft’s HoloLens and Magic Leap taking huge strides forward with their new devices.

“Devices like the HoloLens, which allows real-time, 3D social interaction, are opening up huge potential in both consumer and enterprise markets, with possible use cases including telepresence, remote training, and social gaming,” concludes Sam Rosen, Managing Director and Vice President at ABI Research. “While a number of technical and usage barriers still exist, the high level of investment in enterprise, consumer and content markets shows the race to be the first to develop a killer product.”

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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