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Study Shows Consumers Prefer Virtual Reality by a 3:1 Margin Over Augmented Reality

Consumers love the new technology, but challenges remain on price, screen resolution, range of applications, and desire for standalone form factors.

Foster City, CA – April 13, 2018: With the recent release of Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” film, based on the popular novel by Ernest Cline, the topic of virtual reality has hit popular culture once again, with some wondering if the film can drive renewed interest in the still nascent category of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets. Thanks to the results of a new study by TECHnalysis Research, there’s no question about consumer interest in and appreciation for these types of products among those who know the technology, but driving growth in the category will require a lot more work (and education) to be done.

Based on an online survey conducted in March 2018 of 1,000 US consumers who identify themselves as gamers (and therefore are more likely to have experience with AR and VR), the study provides key insights into the behavior and preferences of current users of many types of mixed reality headsets. One of the more surprising findings from the study was that consumers showed a strong preference for VR over AR (73% vs. 27%). While this may in part stem from more exposure to VR products than AR, consumers were clear that the desire for new experiences and enjoying the “otherworldly” feelings enabled by fully immersive virtual reality were key factors in their buying decisions and positive experiences with the products.

“Many in the tech industry have presumed that AR was going to be the defacto long-term winner in this technology battle,” said Bob O’Donnell, president of TECHnalysis Research, “but this study highlights that many of the characteristics of full immersion VR are what drive the most interest and excitement among consumers.”

From the initial sample of nearly 6,300 people who started the survey, TECHnalysis Research found that about half had tried some type of AR or VR headset, with the vast majority focused on smartphone-based headsets, such as the Samsung Gear VR (the most commonly owned VR device among survey respondents). As Figure 1 illustrates, PC and console-based products were a distant second choice and standalone devices were the least likely to have been tried. (Note that approximately one quarter of respondents had tried more than one type of headset.)

Fig. 1

The overall enthusiasm for AR and VR products was extremely high among survey respondents, even despite a number of concerns and challenges that were raised in the study results. Not surprisingly, among those who hadn’t yet purchased a device, the biggest issues were price (both for the headsets alone, as well as for all the pieces necessary to put together a function system), and limited knowledge of the devices and their benefits. For those who do own them, motion sickness-related concerns are still very real, as about 44% said they experienced discomfort at least some of the time  that they used the devices. In addition, most users are frustrated by the limited range of software and are particularly interested in applications such as simulations, virtual travel/explorations and other unique types of experiences.

“Consumers are clearly very excited about the possibilities of AR and VR-focused products,” noted TECHnalysis Research founder Bob O’Donnell, “and are cognizant that it’s still early days for these technologies. Those who have tried the devices are generally very satisfied with the experiences they’ve had but are also clearly hungry for better visual experience and easy-to-use products.”

Looking forward, 46% of consumers said they would prefer a standalone device (vs. 42% for a smartphone-driven headset), primarily for the ease-of-use and convenience that such a device would offer. However, they’d like to see these products at $200 price points and with higher-resolution screens and better overall visual experiences, which are challenging targets for the industry to achieve in the near term.

If you’re interested in more information on the subject, other topics covered in the study include types of applications used, length of AR or VR sessions, specific products purchased, most and least favorite products and characteristics, usage for work applications, smartphone AR software usage, and much more.

A summary version of the TECHnalysis Research Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Study is available in PDF format and can be downloaded for free here. The complete 107-slide version of the report with detailed breakdowns for every question is available for purchase. For additional information, please e-mail the author at

Founded by technology market research veteran Bob O’Donnell, TECHnalysis Research, LLC provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. Building on a deep understanding of critical technology and business trends, in conjunction with hard-hitting, original research, the firm provides unique "out-of-the-box" perspectives that are still grounded in the practical realities of the technology, media and telecom markets.

You can download a copy of this press release in Adobe Acrobat format here.

Media Coverage
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