Virtual reality headsets have made progress in recent years by gaining more mainstream awareness and adoption, but it appears there’s still a long way to go.
According to Parks Associates, 8% of U.S. broadband households own a VR headset, while just 25% are familiar with VR headsets. The research firm’s new study, "Virtual Reality: The Evolving Ecosystem," found that consumer familiarity with VR technology stayed stuck on approximately one-fourth of U.S. broadband households between 2017 and 2018.
For online video providers hoping that VR headsets are becoming a platform for driving further viewer engagement, there’s some bad news. Among U.S. broadband households that own or are familiar with VR headsets, the most common use case (cited by 54% of respondents) is video games. That’s slightly ahead of use cases including virtual tours and entertainment videos and way ahead of watching live events, social media and shopping applications within VR.
"Sixty-two percent of US broadband households play video games, and while gamers are a passionate market segment, they can be limited in scope, which has stalled adoption of VR to a wider audience," said Billy Nayden, research analyst at Parks Associates, in a statement. "There has been some notable video content developed for VR, such as Alejandro G. Iñárritu's short video experience Carne y Arena, which won an Oscar, but overall lack of quality, non-gaming content is inhibiting broader adoption."
Parks said that 55% of VR headset owners believe content for their device has remained the same since they bought their headset and 3% believe it has gotten worse. The report cited hurdles including costs, the demand for interactivity and limits on content length as the primary roadblocks for more VR content development.
The report pointed out the rise of standalone VR headsets as a more cost-effective alternative to PC- or game console-based headsets while a more premium experience than smartphone-based headsets.
"The aim of standalone VR headsets is to offer much of the same premium content as game console or PC-based headsets, without the need for additional hardware like a gaming console or high-powered PC," Nayden said. "This technology drastically reduces the cost for consumers, while providing a more premium experience than smartphone-based systems."