Lower prices, new devices and expanding use cases for consumers and enterprises will generate a massive uptick in AR and VR headset sales over the four years.
According to new data from IDC, augmented and virtual reality headset shipments will increase tenfold, rising from 10.1 million shipments in 2016 to an estimated 99.4 million in 2021.
IDC says AR and VR will woo enterprise users on the basis of productivity, "allowing workers to see and interact with data instead of viewing a static image on a screen." The benefits will be most obvious to the manufacturing and design, health care, transportation and retail industries.
Meanwhile, consumers will warm to AR and VR on the promise of more immersive experiences to consume content, including concerts, sporting events, video games and other social events.
When looked at separately, AR takes the minority share in terms of market shipments, but will drive more revenue based on the value of AR headsets. IDC expects AR headset revenue to grow from $209 million in 2016 to $48.7 billion in 2021. Meanwhile, VR headsets will grow from $2.1 billion in 2016 to $18.6 billion in 2021.
"VR setups already range from sub-$100 to more than $1,000 and though it's too early to tell, the low-cost experiences may prove to be inhibitors rather than promoters of the technology as they can potentially disappoint first time VR users," said IDC senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani.
On the other hand, Ubrani said AR headsets are far less accessible to consumers, with price points well above $1,000.
"Though that's probably for the best as the AR ecosystem and wide social acceptance are still a few years away," Ubrani said.
IDC's headset shipment forecast comes just a few weeks after the research firm put out a study predicting that the combined AR and VR market will reach $13.9 billion in 2017. When pitted against each other, IDC expects that VR spending will top AR due to consumer uptake of games and paid content. But within two years, AR could surge ahead after hitting stride in healthcare delivery, product design, and management-related use cases.