All posts by Callum Tyndall

The virtual reality hardware market will be worth over $50bn by 2021

A new study by Juniper Research has found that the revenue from virtual reality hardware, including headsets, peripherals and 360° cameras, will reach more than $50bn by 2021.

This revenue prediction is ten times that of the estimated $5bn in sales this year.

The new research, Virtual Reality Markets: Hardware, Content & Accessories 2016-2021, suggests that this rapid growth in the market will come out of the high prices for console and PC units in combination with a large-scale adoption of virtual reality by smartphone users.

Triggered by Playstation VR’s launch this month, and Microsoft’s Project Scorpio next year, virtual reality hardware for consoles is predicted to account for over 50% of VR hardware revenues, but will only make up 27% of shipments.

Image courtesy of HTC.

Image courtesy of HTC.

The principle divide expected by Juniper is likely to fall between PC and console investment. While mobile users may well adopt the technology on a wide scale, the requisite low cost of headsets for smartphones is going to prevent that side of the market from dominating revenue.

Instead, the higher quality experiences offered up by PCs and consoles are likely to take the lead in justifying premium prices. The split is going to come from the current shape of the PC market and the high investment amounts required for entry into the top tier of PC experiences.

“Some of the most popular VR titles are currently priced much lower than traditional AAA games, sometimes as low as half the price”, remarked research author Joe Crabtree.

“In the several months since the launch of PC-based VR this year, consumer expectations are likely to have changed to expect shorter, cheaper games. When AAA publishers release to PC, they may have trouble selling with traditional AAA prices, while console users have no such habit to break.”

Image courtesy of Sony

Image courtesy of Sony

If accurate, the predictions made by the study are very promising for the future of VR. The high revenue from the PC and console market is not entirely unexpected and makes sense given the high cost of units for the devices but the amount of money, if accurate, suggests a more solid future than was necessarily expected.

Perhaps more important, if not as profitable, however, is the research’s expectations around the mobile market. One of the main obstacles that virtual reality faces is adoption on a scale beyond enthusiasts; a challenge emphasised by the same high unit costs that are likely to make it the most money.

The trend Juniper suggests is that low cost ‘holder’ headsets will allow a lot of users to give VR a try without having to worry about the price of the device if they don’t like it. And while consumers dipping in and out could pose a problem to developers, the promising element is that the more people give the technology a go in one format, the more likely we are to see a wholesale acceptance and interest among consumers.

Child alternative? Toyota announces plans to release ‘robot baby’

Toyota has announced plans to launch sales of their Kirobo Mini communication partner, a 10cm tall device developed to provide companionship. Perhaps best described as a ‘robot baby’, the Kirobo will begin rollout this winter.

The robot fits in the palm of the hand and, when spoken to, turns its head to the person talking and engages in conversation while moving both its head and hands. This conversational ability comes from a combination of the Kirobo’s built-in camera and a dedicated app for smartphones that connects to the robot via Bluetooth.

The camera supposedly allows the robot to recognise facial expressions, through which it “tries to detect their emotions so that it can accordingly adjust its manner of speaking and moving.”

Images courtesy of Toyota

Images courtesy of Toyota

The Kirobo’s conversational ability is increased by a capacity to learn from its interactions with the user, remembering user likes and dislikes and time they have spent together in the past. Using these interactions as points of reference, the Kirobo then adjusts its points of conversation over time to better tailor conversation to the user.

Additionally, the robot can connect to devices in the car or home to increase its information base on the user and further enhance its range of conversation.

Part of the Toyota Heart Project, which aims to “develop a distinctly humanlike interaction between man and machine”, the Kirobo has previously been to International Space Station in 2013 as a companion to Koichi Wakata, the first Japanese commander of the International Space Station.

Now coming to Earth, the robot is likely to be marketed to Japanese women and may well focus its marketing on being an alternative to having children.

While cute, and clearly designed to be a sort of cross between a toy and a pet, there is something a little creepy about this strange little robot that gets carried around in a personal sort of baby carrier and remembers the type of food you like to eat.

It’s obviously made creepier by the fact that this could be intended to replace children in people’s lives. While not having children certainly isn’t a problem, there’s a certain question to be raised around not having children in favour of, as the Kirobo concept video states, pursuing a society “where a new form of affection similar between that of humans and cars can be nurtured”.

I personally have never felt that attached to a car that I’d want to replace some form of human interaction with it but the aspiration of Toyota’s technology is certainly impressive in a way.

Though perhaps the creepier part of it is that while the Kirobo Mini will retail at 39,800 yen (about £305), you will then have to pay a monthly fee of approximately 300 yen to use the dedicated app. And while that’s certainly a small fee, about £2.30, it seems somewhat odd to provide you with a companion who can only learn as long as you keep spending.

We can only hope the bizarre little bot is transplanted to our shores soon.