While global shipments for augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) headsets declined 23,5% in 2023, 2024 is shaping up to be a year of recovery as shipments are forecast to surge 44,2% to 9,7-million units, according to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Augmented and Virtual Reality Headset Tracker.

New headsets such as Apple’s Vision Pro and additional launches towards the end of the year will help drive growth as macroeconomic conditions improve across the globe.

“Apple’s launch of the Vision Pro grabbed a lot of headlines and has raised awareness for AR and VR and although it’s priced out of reach for most, it is helping raise the bar for competitors,” says Jitesh Ubrani, research manager, Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers at IDC. “Along with Apple, many companies such as Meta and others have already begun their journey, transitioning from VR to Mixed Reality; ultimately laying the groundwork for true AR experiences.”

Virtual Reality headsets are forecast to reach 24,7-million units by the end of 2028, representing a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 29,2% as the consumer base slowly grows beyond core gaming use cases and as businesses adopt more headsets for training, design, and more. Meanwhile, Augmented Reality headsets will grow from a smaller base of less than 1-million units in 2024 to 10,9-million in 2028, representing an 87,1% CAGR over the same period.

“It will be exciting to watch how the market will evolve from today’s experiences and how end users will adapt to them,” adds Ramon T Llamas, research director with IDC’s Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality programme. “Mixed reality (commonly referred to as MR, the ability for users to toggle between augmented and virtual reality) has been the exception and not the norm, but Apple has shone a bright light on MR with the Vision Pro.

“Next, look at how companies will increasingly incorporate artificial intelligence to analyse data and generate virtual content for the user. Finally, display technology will move from content consumption to content interaction with more sophisticated sensors and displays.”