VR device shipments to break through 50m barrier by 2020, research claims

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Shipments of virtual reality devices will cross the 50 million mark by 2020, with manufacturers scrambling to own the nacsent market, new research has claimed.

Virtual reality was one of the key themes of last week's Mobile World Congress, with many attendees willing to queue for hours to test out the latest devices from Samsung and HTC.

A report from ABI Research said the sector will have a compound annual growth rate of 84.5 percent between now and 2020.

Manufacturers are keen to find new revenue streams as the smartphone market plateaus and squeezes out an increasing number of competitors.

As well as the devices, vendors are also releasing a range of accessories to encourage consumers to take the plunge. For example, all pre-orders of Samsung's S7 and S7 Edge will include the Korean manufacturer's Gear VR.

At the entry level end of the scale, Google recently revealed it has shipped more than five million of its Cardboard VR since announcing it at its I/O developers conference in 2014.

[Read more LG's modular G5 trumps Samsung's familiar S7 as MWC looks beyond handsets]

Sam Rosen, Managing Director and Vice President at ABI Research, said: “The VR content ecosystem is opening up to include casual and traditional VR gaming, as well as education experiences. 360-degree video also saw notable investment from Facebook and YouTube, pointing to another promising VR growth opportunity. While content developers are still learning how consumers engage with mobile-reliant VR systems, VR in core gaming and augmented reality are on well-defined growth trajectories.”

Eric Abbruzzese, Research Analyst at ABI Research, added: “Smartphones are the perfect platform for the VR market, because they already have the power and technological functionality necessary to create a fun, in-depth simulated environment. As their capabilities continue to evolve, we anticipate high-end VR, which is currently exclusive to PC and game consoles, to expand to mobile-powered uses by 2020.

"Google Cardboard is just the beginning; in the years to come, independent growth across major markets, including mobile devices, wearables, gaming, advertising, and data, will all synergise and power the next stage of transformational growth in mobile VR.”