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Study Predicts Fewer Than 10 Million Monthly U.S. VR Headset Users This Year, 17 Million by 2019

There’s good news and there’s bad news for the nascent virtual reality (VR) industry in a new eMarketer study. The good news: More than 22 million people living in the U.S. will experience VR monthly this year, according to eMarketer, and that number is poised to grow to 49 million by 2019.

And now for the bad news: Much if that isn’t actually real VR. That’s because the market research company is also including 360 videos viewed on the web or elsewhere without the help of a headset in its study. “The category is being driven mainly by 360-degree photos and videos on Facebook and YouTube,”  the company’s PR director Douglas Clark wrote in a blog post.

eMarketer expects only 9.6 million consumers to use a VR headset at least once a month this year. By 2019, that number is supposed to reach 17.2 million people, or 5.2 percent of the U.S. population. “VR has been slower to catch on in the US, and will not reach mass adoption in the foreseeable future,” Clark wrote.

Slower, that is, that augmented reality (AR), which eMarketer already sees at 40 million monthly users, and poised to reach 54.4 million by 2019. However, once again, we are not talking about Microsoft’s HoloLens or other AR headsets. Instead, eMaerketer is including phone-based AR experiences like Snapchat’s Lenses and AR effects in Facebook Stories.

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That definition is actually in line with how Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been talking about AR. At the company’s recent f8 developer conference, Zuckerberg said that he used to think about headsets and glasses when the subject came up. But now, the company is putting a much bigger emphasis on mobile AR. Said Zuckerberg: “We are going to make the camera the first augmented reality platform.”

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