Virtual reality technology – a long-emerging consumer segment – is set to make a bigger splash in the enterprise market over the next few years, according to new research.
Analyst firm IDC forecasts that the total global value of three emerging technology categories – augmented and virtual reality headsets, smart home devices and wearables – is expected to reach US$369.6 billion by the end of this calendar year and swell to US$524.9 billion by the end of 2025.
Along with showcasing movement in the consumer market, IDC’s latest research highlights increasing enterprise activity in the augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) segment.
Overall, of the three segments examined by IDC, augmented and virtual reality hardware is expected to see the fastest growth in value over the coming years, albeit from a lower base, with the anticipation of new devices coming to market from both established and start-up companies and a warming reception among new users.
Indeed, the value of augmented and virtual reality technology is expected to enjoy an annual compound growth rate (CAGR) of 67.9 per cent over the five-year forecast period to 2025 to reach US$18.18 billion.
By comparison, the smart home segment is expected to see a CAGR of 10.1 per cent to US$400.36 billion while the wearables segment is expected to hit a CAGR of just 9.9 per cent to US$106.35 billion over the same period.
But it’s not just increasing consumer gaming interest in AR/VR that is pushing the segment to new heights. According to IDC, enterprise users have moved beyond exploratory and pilot use cases and into broader deployments.
While the headset technology itself will be the site of data consumption and attention, IDC noted, the analyst firm suggested that the AR/VR experience was likely to evolve from consuming and interacting with content on a headset device to connecting with other devices and systems to serve seamless experiences at work and at home.
"Virtual Reality headsets are seeing strong growth in 2021 from both consumer and commercial buyers," said Tom Mainelli, group vice president for IDC's augmented and virtual reality team. "We expect VR growth to continue well into the future as more consumer and enterprise use cases present themselves.
“Today, AR headsets are primarily focused on enterprise use cases, but we do anticipate consumer-focused headsets will gain traction in the later years of our forecast as major technology companies enter the space with new products,” he added.
Pushed by the likes of Microsoft, with its HoloLens product line, AR technology has for some time been employed for exploratory and, increasingly, production use cases at the enterprise end of the market. But virtual reality tech does not seem to have held the same space in the business market.
However, as previously reported, the enterprise use cases for VR technology are in fact seemingly endless — from deepening collaboration and training exercises to improving employee engagement.
These use cases take on added significance given the global pandemic and the resulting work-from-home policies that have put a temporary pause on most face-to-face meetings.
While cynics may question the technology’s readiness for the workplace, IDC has noted that “in just a few short years, VR hardware vendors have dramatically improved their headsets through iterative improvements to the technology.”
Earlier this year, one tech player with a consumer background that is now taking aim at the enterprise, Facebook, made a virtual reality play for business users.
In August, the social media platform operator unveiled its vision to make remote meetings more immersive with the introduction of Horizon Workrooms, a virtual reality app for team collaboration.
Facebook introduced Horizon, its virtual reality social space accessed via Oculus VR headsets, last year. This latest iteration, Horizon Workrooms, is aimed squarely at replicating conference room meetings however, with colleagues represented as animated avatars.
According to a Facebook blog post, Horizon Workrooms can improve team communication and collaboration, “whether that’s getting together to brainstorm or whiteboard an idea, work on a document, hear updates from your team, hang out and socialise, or simply have better conversations that flow more naturally.”