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Samsung insists VR market is worth bothering with

The Telecoms.com team got its hands on some VR gear at Samsung's launch event at MWC.

Samsung has hurled its weight behind new research from CCS Insight, which predicts 400% growth of total UK VR device shipments by 2020.

The challenged giant sold roughly 150,000 VR headsets in the UK, accounting for around 20% of the market share, though the prediction sees the overall market rising to 3.84 million by 2020, with the segment being worth a total of £354.3 million. Although these figures may seem attractive on the surface, the enthusiasm may not be there once you dig a little bit deeper.

The stomping ground of VR has been gaming to date, where the most obvious use case is present, though Samsung believes the outreach will begin to crack new areas, including movies, meditative experiences, travel and self-recorded content. Should the growth of VR be limited to the consumer market these figures may be very attractive, though the ambitions of the technology are reaching further afield.

Back in October at VR/AR World in London, the potential of the new immersive technology was extended well beyond the living-room. Potential use cases included shopping experiences for more premium goods, enterprise communications, real estate, as well as museums, art galleries and engineering/architecture applications. Enterprise and retail use cases were highly glorified due to higher budgets and the potential to engage customers in a variety of new ways.

Shipments of 3.84 million would represent a 390% increase on the 2016 figure, which is very far from awful but rapid rise is bound to happen due to the embryonic starting point of VR. Considering the vast number of areas vendors are predicting penetration for the technology, it doesn’t seem that high after all. The figures do suggest a successful embedding of the technology, but 3.84 million sales in total across all use cases in the UK may suggest VR is will still be a nice to have; mass market penetration may take a bit longer.

Elsewhere in the research, CCS uncovered female users seek movies, meditative experiences, travel and self-recorded content, while males prefer gaming, sport and extreme sports content. The top three attractions are seeing everything in a new perspective, doing things users have never done before and reliving the most important moments in user’s lives.

The final attraction presents another problem for users; where is this content going to come from? For users to create their own content, the assumption is these users will also have a suitable camera. There are two problems here, firstly, how many people would actually consider buying another piece of hardware considering the spec on smartphone cameras.

Secondly, buying the camera will essentially double the price of entry. If the objective is to make VR more affordable to the mass market, this minor inconvenience will negate any price reduction on the headsets we realize over the next couple of years.

Another point to consider is the network itself. Many UK networks are seemingly set to burst with the continuous exponential growth of internet traffic, how will they deal with the monumental data requirements of 3.84 million downloading or streaming fully immersive experiences, on top of all the other IoT/cloud/video/browsing/Wifi applications. The introduction of 5G will soften the blow, but can we expect 5G in the UK by 2020? Your correspondent is highly sceptical/verging on saying it’s impossible.

Overall, the estimates do provide encouragement for VR technologies in the UK, though let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. This is hardly the glorious victory picture painted by Samsung and CCS Insight.


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