Virtual reality technology could become a market worth of tens of millions of pounds within the next decade, new research estimates.
With the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset set due for commercial release in early 2016 and a plethora of competing devices already in development, virtual reality gadgets worth $2.5m could be sold this year, a number that is projected to rise to $12m in 2017 and to more than $24m a year later.
The forecast was compiled by communication technology analyst firm CCS Insight, which considers virtual reality technology the potentially most disruptive new trend in the coming decade.
"Most consumers find virtual reality a mind-blowing experience the first time they try it,” said Ben Wood, CCS Insight's chief of research. “We believe it has tremendous potential and it's not just about expensive high-end devices such as the Oculus Rift. For only a few dollars, consumers can dip their toe in the water with an inexpensive cardboard holder for a compatible smartphone.”
It is the technology on the lower end of the spectrum that is most likely to deliver the growth, the firm believes.
Gaming is the number one application for virtual reality but video entertainment and user-generated content will most probably be among early adopters of the technology.
Also augmented reality technology, which recently suffered a setback in the sudden end of the Google Glass, is likely to experience a revival.
"Despite the reputational damage done to the consumer smart glasses segment by Google Glass, companies have realised augmented reality can be used to increase productivity and cut costs,” Wood said. “Over the next two years we're going to see the technology move out of trials into full-scale deployments. Companies that embrace augmented reality will gain a competitive advantage."
Global technology firms are already busy investing into virtual and augmented reality tech. Facebook has poured some $2bn into the acquisition of Oculus VR, the maker of Oculus Rift. Sony is working on its Morpheus headset to enhance Playstation experience and Samsung has already produced virtual reality devices for its flagship smartphones.
According to CCS Insight, Europe is currently the largest test bed for this technology.
E&T reporter tested Oculus Rift and the Omnideck virtual reality floor – watch our video: