Deloitte: Augmented and virtual reality set to grow in 2021

(Image courtesy Gerd Altmann via Pixabay.)

The global pandemic has affected the tech world — but not all in a bad way.

Zoom has been getting all the attention, but demand is also growing for virtual and augmented reality, among other technologies.

And this trend is going to continue, according to a report by global consulting and management company Deloitte.

“If we’ve learned anything during this challenging year, it’s how critical technology, telecom, media, and entertainment innovation is for business continuity, keeping in touch with friends and family, appreciating new ways to entertain and learn, and taking care of our health,” said Deloitte vice chairman Kevin Westcott in a statement.

VR sees growth in education and enterprise

Immersive technologies are gaining in popularity and the market for VR headgear is growing.

Deloitte predicts that corporations and educational institutions will lead sales growth for wearable headsets.

“We predict that, led by purchases by corporations and educational institutions, sales for enterprise and educational use of wearable headsets for VR, AR, and MR – collectively known as XR or digital reality – will grow by 100 percent in 2021 over 2019 levels,” said the report.

According to the report, headset growth has accelerated due to the pandemic as a result of employees needing to be trained virtually and teacher’s needs for educating students remotely.

Virtual reality’s future unclear post-pandemic

While VR use in industry and education went up during the pandemic, this isn’t necessarily a sign for future growth.

“It is possible that some of the enterprise and education use of digital reality headsets will be a blip: The headsets will be used during lockdown periods, and then discarded when things return to normal,” said the report.

Enterprise headset sales could be boosted if they follow the same trajectory as several other workplace devices, such as computers and cellphones.

“In the 1980s, some businesses had a single portable computer or radiotelephone/cellular phone for communal use,” said the report. “Over time, these devices became seen as so useful that every employee had to have their own, and price points dropped so significantly that doing so became affordable.”

Growth factors

Though virtual and augmented reality’s future is uncertain, the report highlights some findings that point toward greater adoption in the future:

  • Cheaper high-quality VR headsets are expected to be released that cost under $1,000, which the report calls the magic point.
  • Hard numbers on some enterprise programs are showing an average 32 percent improvement in productivity.
  • Academic research suggests that employees prefer AR to video in work settings. Their problem-solving improves, they make fewer errors, and they perceive it as more efficient than a regular video call.
  • AR training yields a 75 percent retention rate, higher than almost any other form of training. Lectures and readings have only a five to ten percent rate for example.
  • VR is safer and less risky for training in dangerous environments, such as firefighters.
Alex Korolov