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52 million Americans could have VR headsets by 2020: Forrester

Minyoung Park
52 million Americans could have VR headsets by 2020: Forrester

Virtual-reality is on the rise in the US, and it’s freaking some people out. In one viral video, a graphic designer goes nuts while fending off virtual zombies. In another video, a grandmother’s family members hold her shoulders and arms down as she rides a virtual roller coaster.

Despite the anxiety that comes with virtual reality (aka, VR), the demand for VR headsets is slated to increase, according to a report that came out last month from Forrester Research (FORR). Currently, there are about 3.3 million VR headsets in the US, Forrester estimates. But that could spike to 52.3 million by the year 2020, according to Forrester, which did not include cardboard devices like Google Cardboard in its estimates.

A number of barriers could delay the VR revolution, though. For one thing, the vast majority of PCs don’t have the necessary graphics card to connect with high-end VR devices, and getting one will cost users an extra $1,000. The high-end VR experience also faces competition from VR offered by smartphones and by Google Cardboard — the latter offers some aspects of virtual reality for just $15.

However, the report acknowledged that Google Cardboard could be a mixed blessing for the VR market. From the report:

“It lacks the immersive features — 3D sound, a wide viewing angle, and low latency — that high-end VR devices offer. As a result, some Cardboard experimenters will say, ‘Show me more,’ and upgrade to real hardware, but others will say, ‘What’s the big deal?’ and put off getting true VR possibly for years.”

It’s not just individual consumers driving demand for VR, though. The travel industry has been using VR to give clients a fuller picture of destinations, hotels and products.

“We see a lot of hoteliers and they come in with the same boring stuff that everybody else shows, which is an IPad with pictures of their properties,” says Steven Kadoch, a managing partner of Ultimate Jet Vacations (UJV), a luxury travel agency. “It's the same stuff every time and it kind of puts people to sleep.”

Ultimate Jet Vacations wanted to offer its clients a more unique marketing tool, so it partnered with YouVisit, leading virtual reality company, as well as its hotel partners to create VR tours to promote properties and resorts.

“When you look around it's as if you are standing right there in the room,” Kadoch told Yahoo Finance. “You look around and kind of feel like you're inside, which is the big difference between virtual tour that you can see on the website and virtual reality tour where you feel like you are immersed in it.”

Kadoch believes the future of VR is uncertain: “It terms of the future demand for VR, we’ll see. I think there's a lot of companies that are starting to come out with interests in things to do with VR and I think the demand will continue to rise. The big question I think is, how many people are willing to use a piece of equipment and put it on their heads as to entertain themselves?”

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