VR headset sales in Australia surpassed 200k in 2016: Telsyte

Sales of virtual reality headsets in Australia reached 216,000 units in 2016, surpassing Telsyte's previous predictions.

During the 2016 calendar year, 216,000 virtual reality (VR) headsets were sold in Australia, technology analyst firm Telsyte has reported.

With mobile VR taking an approximate 70 percent share of units sold, Telsyte claimed that nearly half of all device revenues were generated by the Sony PlayStation VR, which the analyst firm said is experiencing strong initial demand from video gamers.

In compiling the Telsyte Australian VR & AR Market Study 2017, the firm surveyed Australian consumers over the age of 16, and found that almost half of those looking to purchase a VR headset were planning on using the device for games, movies, or entertainment purposes.

In March last year, Telsyte predicted the popularity of VR in Australia to accelerate in 2016, but drastically underestimated the number of units that would in fact be sold, expecting the total to come in a little over 100,000 units.

At the time, the analyst firm said it expected VR headset sales in Australia to grow by more than 500,000 units per annum by 2020, and pointed to video game enthusiasts as those expected to lead the trend.

"Strong market growth will come in 2017 and 2018 as manufacturers ramp up production and more 'must have' use cases emerge," Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi said at the time. "The strongest pent-up demand is coming from gamers, who clearly see VR as the next frontier in immersive entertainment."

As a result of its latest survey, Telsyte estimates that at least one VR device will be present in 25.5 percent of households by 2021, based on attachment rates of headsets to VR-capable smartphones, gaming consoles, and higher-end gaming PCs.

According to Telsyte, the key driver for the adoption of VR headsets will be supported by content producers, but noted that many production houses are waiting for broader adoption and a clear winner to emerge before making large-scale investments.

"We are entering a chicken and egg scenario with VR adoption," Fadaghi said. "Developers are looking for a growing base of users before making large investments; at the same time, mainstream technology buyers are waiting for killer VR content or applications."

The wide range of VR products available is also impacting consumer and developer uptake, Telsyte said, arguing that the choice of three main platforms -- mobile, console, and PC -- and four main ecosystems -- Oculus, PlayStation VR, HTC Vive/Stream VR, and Google Daydream -- are impacting consumer purchase decisions.

"This will be further exasperated with more options in H2 2017," Telsyte said, noting that most early devices on the market are in need of advancement to help the overall market grow.

"Notwithstanding the health and safety concerns, VR hardware needs to become less visible, lighter, and untethered, while software and content developers need to harness the technology better with less 'demo' orientated releases."

A recent study by Yeti LLC, a design and development studio that helps customers improve their product development processes, provided a look at the emerging VR market and noted that 85 percent of those surveyed for the report said they either already have VR projects under way, or will within one to two years.

The majority of the respondents also already have at least one VR-capable developer, but recognise that they are not yet staffed to handle large VR-related ambitions.

When asked to identify which primary industries where they think VR usage will significantly accelerate in the next two years, 84 percent of respondents cited entertainment, 74 percent said education, 63 percent said media, and 60 percent said medical and healthcare, while high-tech was cited by 56 percent, travel by 54 percent, and real estate by 51 percent.

Australian property site realestate.com.au announced the launch of realestate VR in October, a virtual reality property app for Android mobile devices; while Swedish retail giant IKEA also took the leap into the world of VR, launching its Virtual Reality Kitchen IKEA VR experience in a bid to transform the way people shop.

Similarly, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia recently completed a two-month trial to determine whether storybook-based VR games played at home can further the financial education that is being taught in schools.