With VR headset growth pegged at 58%, some Hollywood directors rally around the technology

A Home Depot virtual reality demonstration using the HTC Vive headset.

According to new figures from IDC, the market for virtual reality headsets is set to blossom in the coming years. And that growth likely will be stimulated by interest among top Hollywood directors in creating content specifically for those VR gadgets.

“I know that as a storyteller this set of tools and the feelings I get from this medium are unique, and it's compelling for me even in the absence of any kind of model for success,” Iron Man and Jungle Book director Jon Favreau told MIT Technology Review recently.

Indeed, Favreau recently released a brief, interactive 360-degree scene called "Gnomes & Goblins," a VR experience currently available on the HTC Vive and coming soon to the Oculus Rift. 

Interestingly, Favreau noted that creating content for VR isn’t the same as filming a movie. “Where people find themselves getting frustrated is when they try to impose those qualities on the new medium,” he told MIT. “They try to cut and paste a movie or television or a video game into VR. I think the best version of VR is immersive and takes full advantage of the presence that VR brings you.”

Favreau’s interest in VR dovetails with recent projections from research firm IDC. The firm this week predicted that VR headset device shipments will reach 99.4 million units in 2021, up nearly tenfold from the 10.1 million units shipped last year. The firm said that figure represented a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 58% across the five-year forecast period.

"2016 marked an important step for the AR and VR headset market with product finally arriving in end users' hands and on their heads," Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's Augmented and Virtual Reality team, said in a release from the company. "While there was clear demand coming primarily from technology enthusiasts, what became readily apparent were the use cases for enterprise users across multiple verticals and for consumers with gaming and content consumption. This sets the stage for the multiple aspects of the market that device makers, platforms and content providers, and developers will be addressing in the months and years to come."

As VR sales grow, others in Hollywood’s director ranks are joining Favreau in VR experimentations, or at least in voicing interest in the medium. As UploadVR noted, directors ranging from Steven Spielberg to Guillermo Del Toro are eyeing VR content. Spielberg, for example, is preparing a movie based on the book Ready Player One, a science fiction tale focused on a dystopian future where virtual reality offers the only real escape from the difficulties of the real world.

Meanwhile, according to UploadVR, Del Toro used VR technology in the development of his movie Pacific Rim, and his recent flick Crimson Peak offered an accompanying VR experience. “If we were to bet that anyone would make a full VR movie in the near future, our money would be on Del Toro,” the publication noted.