The worldwide market for augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) headsets grew 92,1% year over year in 2021 with shipments reaching 11,2-million units, according to new data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly AR/VR Headset Tracker.

The holiday quarter was a major driver for the industry as almost half the annual volume was shipped during 4Q21, closing out a record year that hasn’t seen similar volumes since 2016 when low-cost VR screenless viewers such as Samsung’s Gear VR reigned supreme.

Meta’s Quest 2 was by far the most popular product with 78% share of the combined AR/VR market during the year. In second place was DPVR, which captured 5,1% share globally. ByteDance’s Pico VR products ranked third (4,5% share). VR pioneer HTC and China-based online video platform iQIYI rounded out the top five.

“Meta has led the AR/VR industry by offering a very accessibly priced headset and by moving beyond the core gaming audience, piquing the interest of non-gamers as well as businesses,” says Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for IDC Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers.

“The company still lacks major competiors though that will likely change over the course of the next twelve to 18 months when Sony will re-enter the space with the PSVR2, and we continue to expect headsets from the likes of Apple and other smartphone vendors to eventually launch and garner a lot of attention from end users.”

New entrants as well as broader adoption from the commercial sector will propel the market further as headset shipments are forecast to grow 46,9% year over year in 2022 and experience double-digit growth through 2026 as global shipments of AR/VR headsets surpass 50-million units by the end of the forecast with a 35,1% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR).

“Augmented reality headsets continue to represent a small fraction of the overall AR/VR headset market and the volumes we do see are happening almost exclusively on the commercial side of the business,” says Tom Mainelli, group vice-president: Device & Consumer Research at IDC.

“Consumer AR is still largely the domain of smartphones and tablets and will likely remain so in the near term. Meanwhile, discussion of the Metaverse is driving hype – and investment – around AR, VR, and a host of adjacent technologies, but we don’t expect this frothy behaviour to impact headset volumes any time soon.”