Global sales of smartphone VR headsets will grow fivefold to 70 million by 2021, according to CCS Insight.

In its latest global forecast for virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices, the firm predicts the sales of dedicated VR headsets to grow to 22 million units by 2021 – an 800 per cent increase over 2017.

This year, the market will be worth $1.5bn, but that could surge to $9.1bn in the next five years.

Despite the high growth predicted for VR, the AR devices market is off to a relatively slow start.

Shutterstock

The first significant unit sales won't occur until 2019, while 14 million smartphone VR headsets will be sold in 2017, rising to 25 million in 2018.

Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, said: "Headsets designed for smartphones are the entry point for most consumers when it comes to virtual reality.

“Google's Cardboard devices and Samsung's Gear VR headsets have been the early market makers in this area. We expect the momentum to continue at Mobile World Congress next week, with Google's Daydream headsets being a prominent part of many high-end smartphone launches.”

Sales of smartphone virtual reality devices continue to deliver the lion's share of unit volumes.

VR

Dedicated virtual reality headsets such as the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift and Sony's PlayStation VR deliver significantly higher-quality experiences compared with their smartphone VR cousins, but sales have been shy of expectations.

CCS Insight has adjusted its forecast to reflect the slower start. Previously it expected two million units to be sold in 2016 – but now estimates 1.2 million were sold.

Wood added: "There's no doubt that dedicated VR headsets can be a tough sell. The complete package of the headset and a high-end PC is out of reach for most consumers and even the PlayStation VR, which can be used with the PS4 games console, has failed to meet expectations.

“There's a lot of work to be done on all aspects of the experience, but we still believe there's tremendous potential."

BAE

"The technology continues to improve dramatically and 2017 will see the emergence of untethered solutions that will be more immersive than ever.

“Audiences will have access to a more diverse range of ever-richer content and experiences that we believe will further boost the market.

“The proliferation of VR experiences in theme parks, at cinemas and in other locations such as car showrooms and travel agents offering 'look before you book' experiences will only serve to educate users on the potential of the technology”.

 CCS Insight is a leading provider of research into virtual and augmented reality technology.