IDC predicts AR and VR headsets will reach 100 million units by 2021. It could happen faster.

We have seen it all before: This will be the year of (blank). Pick any technology—augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets, wearables, social networks, etc. The hype cycle starts three to five years early, and everyone—vendors, Wall Street and venture capitalists—is disappointed when last year was not the year.

It is early days for VR and even earlier for AR. Sales of VR headsets were graded disappointing after the close of the Christmas season and seemingly confirmed when BestBuy closed half of its in-store Oculus demo stations.

Google, Microsoft, Facebook (parent of the Oculus Rift), HTC (maker of the Vive), Sony and presumably Apple (if it ever gets its rumored AR device to market) define markets in billions of users or devices. No one can agree on when the 1 billion users or devices mark will be reached—2022, 2025, 2028 …

Jesse Schell, professor at the Carnegie Mellon University Entertainment Technology Center and CEO of Schell Games, predicted the 2016 VR forecast of 8 million consumer headsets back in March of 2016 at the Game Developer Conference (GDC). He was more reserved at GDC 2017 this year, though. No forecasts from him. His talk—Lessons Learned from a Thousand Virtual Worlds—explained how to design and build better VR games.

IDC released a forecast today of 100 million AR/VR units by 2021, growing from 10 million units in 2016 at a 56 percent rate. Facebook reached 1 billion users in 2015, seven years after reaching 100 million users in 2008. Perhaps VR and AR are as successful as Facebook, reaching 1 billion users seven years after it reaches 100 million, in a little over a decade from now in 2028.

3 things that will get AR/VR to 1 billion users faster

To repeat, it is early days. A few developments could shorten the time to 100 million units. The barriers are low, making this possible.

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