There are a lot of numbers floating through cyberspace regarding who has sold how many headsets or downloaded how many VR apps, or spent how much money in online marketplaces. These kinds of figures can be important to understanding the VR technology market, but they only tell us so much.
“Beyond Reality” is a recent study by the National Research Group (NRG) devoted to AR and VR consumer habits. The survey of 2,500 US consumers between the ages of 18 and 64 went beyond the numbers to ask consumers about their VR purchases, but also how they use XR and how they think and feel about it.
Is VR Technology Having a Renaissance?
From the start, the survey doesn’t pull punches. An opening paragraph sets a skeptical stage:
“This isn’t the first time VR has been hailed as the next big thing in mass-market media and entertainment. So, is this ‘VR renaissance’ just another flash in the pan?”
The survey doesn’t promise the VR technology renaissance, but it does list two big reasons why the tech might be here to stay. First, the pandemic has heightened interest. Second, hardware availability hasn’t just allowed adoption – that adoption has led to evangelization.
“Four in ten consumers say that they’ve become more interested in VR technology as a result of the pandemic … Perhaps an even more important reason for consumer receptiveness of VR is the simple fact that so many of them have now had the opportunity to try the technology for themselves.”
A striking 48% of respondents have had at least one VR experience. Of that number, nearly half had the experience in their own home, with slightly fewer having had the experience in a friend or family member’s home.
“We are, by the looks of it, finally starting to see the long-awaited leap of VR technology from public recreational spaces into the living rooms of ordinary consumers,” read the report.
More than that, the report says that 49% of respondents have tried VR in their own home but only 13% of homes have a VR headset. So, either this survey aggressively targeted family members, or headset owners are taking their headsets to other people’s houses. Fortunately, the survey did reveal more about headset owners specifically.
How Do VR Users Use VR?
“Eighty-eight percent of consumers who own a VR headset say that they use it multiple times per month, with 60% reporting that they use it more than once per week. However, these usage sessions are typically relatively brief,” reads the report. “Data suggests a typical usage pattern of two to four VR sessions per week, each lasting around 30-45 minutes.”
You may have guessed at the same cause that the authors came up with. And, according to the report, it’s one of the main things that companies need to tackle to drive further long-term adoption of VR technology.
“The lack of mainstream penetration reflects technical challenges that have yet to be fully solved by hardware manufacturers,” reads the report. “Among consumers who have used a VR headset, 37% reported that they experienced motion sickness symptoms during their last VR experience – with 13% describing these symptoms as ‘severe.’”
Of course, for users to report VR motion sickness, they need to try VR. According to the report, one of the main reasons that VR technology hasn’t experienced greater market penetration is that it is still seen almost exclusively as a gaming console. While this perception has naturally increased penetration among gamers, it leaves other potential markets uninterested.
“To enter the consumer mainstream, VR manufacturers will need to challenge the perception that the technology is ‘just for gamers,’” reads the report.
What VR Can Learn From AR
The report primarily focused on VR technology, but not exclusively. A page was dedicated to AR, and what the report found about AR shines a whole new light on what it found about VR.
For example, the report’s statement about the perception of VR as a gaming technology limiting penetration. A greater percentage of respondents said that they were interested in using AR to learn a skill than said that they were interested in using AR to play games. Further, nearly as many respondents used AR to make a purchasing decision as to play games.
Granted, AR also has lower barriers to adoption. While we are just now seeing AR glasses for the consumer market, AR experiences do not require purpose-built hardware but rather work on standard computers and smart devices. Still, AR having wider perceived utility likely contributes to its wider adoption.
5 Trends for the Next 5 Years
More than providing a snapshot of AR and VR technology today, the report concluded by predicting trends for VR both generally, and specifically. The report did stop short of providing a definite answer to its introductory question regarding whether there really is a “VR renaissance.”
“There is a real chance that, over the next decade or so, VR could start to radically reshape the way we spend our time – and even the way we think about the distinction between our physical and virtual personas,” read the report.
Finally, the report presents five extended reality trends for the next five years:
- Increased VR film and television content;
- VR content being recognized as its own category of media;
- More VR broadcasts of live events;
- A dedicated market for VR self-improvement content;
- Increased public debate about VR’s social impact (particularly pertaining to children).
A Wealth of Info and Insight
Naturally, we didn’t regurgitate the whole report. We hope that you liked our take on it and the highlights that we teased out, but if you want to know more about VR technology market attitudes, you can download the complete report here.