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Investors Set for a Dose of Virtual Reality

8 January 2016 in Trading Ideas

Key Takeaways

  • The 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) saw more than 40 exhibitors showcase their latest virtual reality hardware, software, and accessories
  • 3 virtual reality headsets are expected to hit the consumer market in 2016: Facebook Inc.’s (NASDAQ:FB) Oculus Rift, Sony Corp’s (NYSE:SNE) Playstation VR, and HTC's Vive
  • For more casual virtual reality gamers, mobile headsets powered by smartphones such as Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Cardboard only costs a few dollars
  • Motifs mentioned: 15 virtual reality community motifs

As skittish as traders might be to start the new year – the Dow Jones Industrial Average had already lost 510 points through Wednesday – the optimism surrounding one up-and-coming technology appears undiminished.

Every year, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas offers a paradise for gadget freaks, showcasing hundreds of new products that look to both tap and create appetites for new technology. And one of the most talked-about young industries at this year’s confab – virtual reality — is ready to finally deliver it’s promise into consumers’ hands.

According to the USA Today, the Consumer Technology Association, the organization that runs CES, says more than 40 exhibitors will display the next wave of immersive multimedia for virtual reality systems and environments, gaming hardware, software and accessories designed for mobile, PCs and consoles.1

In total, the Gaming & Virtual Reality Marketplace will expand by 77% over its footprint at last year’s CES.

As the International Business Times reported this week, Silicon Valley has been working on virtual reality since the Kickstarter campaign for Oculus VR in 2012, but the industry has largely refrained from making any major consumer releases. (Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) subsequently bought Oculus in 2014).2

But in 2016, Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Sony Corp’s (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation VR and HTC Vive headsets will all go on sale, IBT said.

Leading the sector’s way into consumer products is gaming, with dozens of premium titles slated to be released throughout 2016. Among them will be Lucky’s Tale, an adventure video game set in a cartoon world that will be included for free with every unit of the Oculus Rift sold upon the headset’s release in the first quarter.

“Gaming is going to be the tip of the spear that ushers VR into the mainstream,” Ikrima Elhassan, co-founder of Kite & Lightning, a studio developing Bebylon Battle Royale, a virtual reality game set to go on sale this summer that pits tatted-up babies against each other in a post-apocalyptic world. “Because VR is so new, people are willing to experiment and try new things that traditional games might not have done.”

However, an early reality for casual gamers is that the barrier to premium virtual reality gaming will be high, with the Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and HTC Vive all expected to cost well into the hundreds of dollars, and require a desktop or game console to connect to, according to IBT.

For those just starting to test VR and wanting to avoid the high costs, there are mobile headsets. These devices are powered by smartphones and offer less computing power, but they are quite inexpensive.

“Most people have smartphones and not large desktop gaming computers,” said Brooke Linville, CEO of IonVR, a mobile VR headset maker that will exhibit at CES told IBT. Smartphones are “where we can meet consumers.”

A recent Consumer Reports article said consumers can expect a flood of inexpensive VR headsets, many based on the Google Cardboard standard the company introduced in 2014 to help popularize VR. It employs the user’s phone and only costs a few dollars.3

And a few of these offshoots will still bring some special features to the table. For instance, the Freefly VR headset can accommodate a variety of phones, but it also comes with a cool remote to help you control the screen.

Many mobile headset makers are also betting that down the road smartphones will be capable enough to provide the power necessary for the complex video games currently reserved for premium headsets.

“You’ve got tens of billions of dollars of R&D going into the smartphone industry every year. The displays are going to get better, the sensors are going to get better, the graphical chips are going to get more powerful with every generation,” Andrew Trickett, co-founder of Merge VR, told IBT. “Mobile phones are going to improve at a faster rate than some of these dedicated devices.”

Of course, for investors, a rapidly expanding market isn’t merely theoretical. CTA projects that smart eyewear will reach 1.2 million units sold in 2016 – a six-fold increase over last year. Total revenue is projected to reach, $540 million, an increase of more than five times, according to USA Today’s report.

To view motifs from our community catalog centered around virtual reality products and services, find them here.

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  1. Edward C. Baig, “CES 2016 will be virtual reality showcase,” usatoday.com, Jan. 2, 2016, http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/baig/2015/12/31/ces-2016-virtual-reality-showcase/77564238/, (accessed Jan. 6, 2016).
  2. Salvador Rodriguez, “Virtuality Reality In CES 2016 Spotlight As Sony, HTC and Facebook’s Oculus Show Off VR Gear, Content,” ibtimes.com, Jan. 4, 2016, http://www.ibtimes.com/virtual-reality-ces-2016-spotlight-sony-htc-facebooks-oculus-show-vr-gear-content-2248202, (accessed Jan. 6, 2016).
  3. Patrick Austin, “The Virtual Reality to See at CES 2016,” consumerreports.org, Jan. 4, 2016, http://www.consumerreports.org/video-game-consoles/the-vr-to-see-at-ces-2016, (accessed Jan. 6, 2016).

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