The market for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets keeps expanding.
In the second quarter (Q2) of 2017, vendors shipped 2.1 million AR and VR headsets, a 25.5 percent year-over-year increase, said IDC in its latest report on the market. Shipments slipped a bit compared to the first quarter, when units shipped totaled 2.3 million, noticed the research firm.
Challenges abound, including consumers to buy into the burgeoning ecosystem, and not just monetarily.
"The VR market is still very young and consumers seem to be taking a cautious approach," said IDC senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani. "With plenty of headset options already in the market and even more coming soon, hardware isn't the issue. The bigger challenge is the slow growth in content that appeals to a mass audience, combined with the confusion associated with a lack of cross-platform support."
Although the blended experiences provided by AR systems show promise, for now the market belongs to VR. AR headsets overlay computer imagery over a user's physical surroundings while VR headsets generally deposit users into virtual worlds and environments.
The vast majority of headsets shipped last quarter were of the VR variety (98 percent). Tethered VR headsets, the type that requires a physical connection to a PC or other computing device, increased their market share to 43 percent in Q2 from 34 percent in Q1. IDC credits the jump to price reductions affecting the Oculus Rift from Facebook and Sony's success in getting more PlayStation fans to spring for its VR headset.
AR may be a tiny blip on the market's radar, but that may soon change as tech giants set their sights on the technology.
"Now that Apple and Google are both focused on helping developers create AR experiences on their platforms—through ARKit for iOS and ARCore for Android—we can expect to see a flood of new AR apps appearing on smartphones later this year and into next," said IDC vice president Tom Mainelli. "These developments should eventually lead to consumer-centric AR glasses, but that won't happen in meaningful volume, at affordable price points, for some time."
Samsung led the market in Q2, with shipments of 568,000 VR headsets and a 26.7 percent slice of the pie. Its success is somewhat owed to the practice of bundling Gear VR headsets with the popular Galaxy S8 and S8+.
Second-place Sony shipped 519,400 units and claimed 24.4 percent of the market. Facebook came in third, with shipments of 246,900 Oculus Rift headsets. TCL and HTC rounded out the top five.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.