Get ready to take some Tylenol VR, folks.
We might need that (totally made-up) medication someday if a Forrester prediction comes to fruition. Analysts are saying there could be as many as 52 million headsets sold by 2020, made up mostly of the recently released HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift.
The Forrester report is unique in that it splits out those high-end highly immersive headsets and compares them to the consumer models like the Samsung Gear. (Curiously, it leaves out Google Cardboard because it is a throwaway product.)
I've tested all of the leading headsets and I'm just as optimistic that, once people try VR, they will become fans. That's one of the reasons Oculus has starting showing off their wares at Best Buy stores so customers can try out the experience for themselves. Like driving a supercar or flying in a jet, it's something you have to experience to really appreciate, which is one of the negative points in the Forrester report
For small businesses, it's a booming market. Some of the highlights from the report include a note about how HTC is spending $100M on an app accelerator program, how the resolution has increased dramatically over the past few years and since the first demos debuted, how Facebook (who owns Oculus) is already showing 360-degree videos. It does seem like this is a market being heavily touted.
Similar to how iPhone and iPad point-of-sale systems took off quickly, VR could become the latest hot trend for selling a new product, teaching a class, or experiencing a conference in a way that is pretty close to being physically present (with much cheaper travel costs). VR is so immersive that it could help companies explain a product that normally requires an in-person demo, such as a new robot for families or a connected home gadget that turns on the sprinklers automatically.
I've been predicting this for some time, but I firmly believe VR can cut down on travel costs, not just to allow people like me to go to CES without buying a plane ticket but really any in-person experience, like attending a keynote address. When I tested the HTC Vive, I remember "walking" into a conference room and imagining what it would be like to chat with a dozen other people all wearing headsets. When someone speaks, you can all "look" in that direction. You could even set a product on the virtual table and have everyone get up from their chairs and take a look. It solves almost all of the problems with telepresence like everyone talking at once.
Virtual Reality can also work nicely for team collaboration. If you want to Skype with someone, it's fairly easy but makes it hard if you want to both figure out how to load paper in a printer or look at blueprints for a new office. In VR, when you point or gesture, a virtual avatar solves many of the body language problems that occur with a talking head video over an Internet chat.
The Forrester report did mention a few downsides. Many people might not jump on the bandwagon, choosing to stick with old tech like Skype. The hardware requirements are high for the high-end VR headsets. For mobile, the headsets are not as compelling even if the costs are lower. I'd add the sickness factor, since some people don't last long in a VR setting without getting dizzy.
For most VR fans, the only dizziness factor is the one you feel when you start adding up the revenue from a new app, demo, hardware gadget, or headset.