This year 40 million Americans will engage with some form of augmented reality (AR) monthly, up 30.2 per cent over last year, according to eMarketer’s first forecast on augmented reality and virtual reality. Much of the growth of AR is being fueled by Snapchat Lenses, Facebook Stories, and Instagram Stories, while VR usage is being driven by 360-degree videos on social networks.
eMarketer defines AR users as individuals of any age who engage with augmented reality content at least once a month via any device. This year, 12.3 per cent of the US population will engage with some form of AR content monthly. By 2019, AR users are expected to top 54.4 million, 16.4 per cent of the population or nearly 1 in 5 internet users.
“Users of Snapchat Lenses comprise the vast majority of our AR estimates,” said eMarketer forecasting analyst Chris Bendtsen. “Snapchat growth will continue to contribute to AR users in the future, but in the next several years eMarketer also expects Facebook and Instagram Stories to be significant growth drivers of AR usage.”
Virtual reality, meanwhile, has been slower to catch on in the US, and will not reach mass adoption in the foreseeable future. This year, 22.4 million people in the US will engage with a form of VR monthly, up 109.5 per cent over 2016. In its definition of VR, eMarketer includes 360-degree videos, photos, and product demos via any device (e.g., connected TVs, desktops/laptops, mobile devices and headsets) and games via headsets. The category is being driven mainly by 360-degree photos and videos on Facebook and YouTube.
The gaming industry is driving the growth of virtual reality headset usage. This year, 9.6 million people in the US will use a headset to experience VR monthly. That’s a jump of 98.7 per cent over last year.
While headsets provide a more immersive experience, engagement will remain low due to the often high cost of VR headsets. This year, just 2.9 per cent of the population will use one monthly, with that number growing only slightly to 5.2 per cent by 2019.