It turns out the promise of virtual reality bites when compared to long-term prospects for augmented reality.
At least that’s according to research from Manatt Digital Media that estimates the market for VR-based solutions will account for only $30 billion of a total $150 billion combined AR/VR market by 2020.
But there’s always a “but,” right?
In this case, that “but” is followed by a question: How are we supposed to square Manatt’s research with seemingly contradictory estimates like those from Gartner, whose ever-popular Hype Cycle chart shows AR far behind VR—indeed, far behind even autonomous vehicles—in its advance toward true market traction?
Short answer: You can’t. And in my view, it’s VR’s fault.
A Virtual Conundrum
To get to what I mean, I went to Charlie Kraus, senior product marketing manager for Limelight Networks, which is a leading content delivery network (CDN) provider.
CDNs, of course, are used by carriers and others to deliver all that content you consume online—text, graphics, videos, games, music, etc.—with a high level of availability and performance.
As you might imagine, AR (content superimposed on the user's view of the physical world) and VR (content that immerses the user in a simulated world) can only be as good as the networks through which that content is delivered.
After all, if you think buffering at a key moment on “House of Cards” is innervating, just wait until you miss a critical turn as you make your way around an unfamiliar city using AR-based navigation, or find yourself frozen and subsequently fragged by opponents within VR gaming worlds, due to network congestion.
So while most of the focus is on manufacturers producing devices like Oculus Rift and app developers for more common devices such as iPhones, I figured content networks may have actual usage patterns from which to base projections.
In part one of this Q & A, I ask Kraus to spell out the differences between VR and AR for listeners who may be confused by the terms (and no wonder—look at this article out today that seems to equate the two), and why Limelight is especially bullish on AR.
Then I ask about what I see as a key problem with reconciling contradictory projections about adoption rates for both AR and VR.
Sure, AR seems pretty well defined. But VR is an entirely different matter.