CivicScience | VR Lags, AR on Social Media Shows Promise

Technology

VR Lags, AR on Social Media Shows Promise

Image Credit: Photo by UNIBOA on Unsplash

This month’s 2021 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) brought the newest in virtual and augmented reality tech to the public eye–from the latest smart glasses to AR-equipped cars to VR job training. But how soon can we expect a VR/AR integrated world? On the other side of the equation is consumer adoption of VR/AR products. Here’s what the latest CivicScience tracking reveals:

VR Trends

Even though gaming grew during the pandemic, VR gaming did not. A CivicScience survey of more than 64,000 adults shows a negligible increase in ownership from 10% in May 2020 to 11% today. The same goes for intent.

VR Owners and Intenders 

Gen Z Teens: Those under 18 index as the biggest owners and the biggest intenders to own VR tech. In second place are Millennials (not Gen Z adults), now the most likely among adults to own VR tech at 18% ownership. These are the groups to watch.

Parents: It’s unlikely that teenagers are financing VR tech on their own, but (some) moms and dads can. The survey finds that parents are twice as likely as non-parents to make the jump to VR ownership (at 12%). On the other hand, intent to buy is higher among the non-parent crowd (at 14%).

What’s more, the data show parents of kids ages 13 to 17 (the Gen Z teen crowd) have an even higher ownership rate (at 17%). Some of these parents say they use VR often–because why should kids have all the fun?

Living at Home: Mom and dad may indeed play a key role in securing that VR system, even for adults. Adults who still live at home over-index as owners and potential owners compared to renters or homeowners.

The findings reinforce ideas that VR is niche and ownership is still inaccessible to most people (even to the majority of gamers), likely because of its high price point and learning curve. However, we’ll be tracking to see if that changes in 2021 with new products like the Oculus Quest 2–an untethered, fully-contained VR headset (no expensive PC required)–and VR social platforms such as the upcoming Facebook Horizon.

AR Trends

How do AR (augmented reality) compare to VR trends? 

Headsets and Glasses 

Ownership of AR headsets and glasses such as Microsoft HoloLens is lower than VR headsets, and was also stagnant throughout 2020. The same goes for intent to own, outweighing ownership. That’s understandable, considering the high cost of these products and the fact that they are marketed more for business or professional use.

AR, Social Media, and Shopping

Headsets and glasses are only a part of the AR picture. AR is now easily accessed on smartphones and mobile devices through apps and platforms that let users do things like apply real-time filters, ‘try on’ sneakers, see how a couch looks in their living room, or play games such as Pokemon Go. eMarketer predicts the number of people in the U.S. using AR through social media alone will reach 46.9 million people this year and counting.

Current CivicScience data show that 22% of respondents (age 13+) have used AR features such as Snapchat Lenses, Instagram filters, and Pinterest ‘Try On’ on social media platforms.

That’s eight percentage points more than people who say they have used AR shopping apps, such as IKEA Place or Amazon AR View:

Despite the pandemic, CivicScience tracking shows that adoption of these shopping apps has not grown over the course of 2020 and into 2021. However, higher social media AR adoption suggests that ‘try-before-you-buy’ AR features via social media platforms, such as Snapchat and Pinterest, may offer greater advantages for retailers, especially in sunglasses, makeup, and shoes markets.

Who are the AR social media users? 

Gen Z and Millennials: Like VR trends, these two generations rank highest, with a significant amount having used AR on social media. Unlike VR trends, Gen Z teens under 18 are not as interested. Those 55 and older barely appear on the user radar.

Women: Unlike VR, where men are bigger users, AR on social media is more popular among women. 

Gamers: Finally, those who have used AR on social media are much more likely to be frequent gamers, with 23% of respondents playing daily.

Overall, the study shows that AR and VR headsets have a ways to go to become mainstream. AR that can be used on mobile devices and particularly on social media hasn’t yet reached wide adoption, but seems positioned to grow. CivicScience will be following trends closely in 2021.

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