Spending on virtual and augmented reality could double each year for the next four years, says a new report. / Sarah Tew/CNET
The battle to build a new generation of virtual and augmented reality experiences is already well underway, and if a new report from International Data Company is correct, the stakes might be higher than you might expect.
Worldwide spending on virtual and augmented reality is expected to double each year through 2021, say the analysts at IDC, a market research firm based in Framingham, Massachusetts. According to their math, total spending will increase from $11.4 billion in 2017 to $215 billion in 2021, with a compound annual growth rate of 113.2 percent.
Consumer sales for things like headsets and games are currently the top driver of overall spending, followed by sales in the manufacturing and retail sectors. In the US, some of those sectors could ultimately overtake consumer sales by 2021.
"Other segments like government, transportation, and education will utilize the transformative capabilities of these technologies," said Marcus Torchia, research director of IDC Customer Insights & Analysis.
Virtual and augmented reality is a hotbed of investment and development right now, spurred by a recent spike in interest fueled by new hardware like Microsoft's Hololens, reality-altering apps like Snapchat, and even games like Pokemon Go. Google Lens and Apple's ARKit are also expected to spur consumer interest and development. And Facebook's in the mix, too.
"As next-generation hardware begins to appear, industry verticals will be among the first to embrace it," says Tom Mainelli, program vice president, Devices and AR/VR at IDC. "They will be utilizing cutting-edge software and services to do everything from increase worker productivity and safety to entice customers with customized, jaw-dropping experiences."