TAIPEI – The total value of the virtual reality market (including hardware and software) will reach $6.7 billion in 2016 and $70 billion in 2020, says TrendForce.

Consumers’ pursuit for richer audiovisual experience has propelled the popularity of VR devices, says the firm, causing more companies to invest in this market. Competition among increasing players will bring about diversification and growth of VR applications.

“These explosive growth projections actually do not sufficiently reflect just how hot the VR industry is right now,” said Jason Tsai, TrendForce wearable device analyst. “The figures do not include the value of non-commercial uses of VR technology. For example, the industry is currently pushing the development of free software and do-it-yourself apps. While these projects do not immediately generate revenue for the developers, they have a vital role in the promotion market growth and innovations.”

The VR industry is in its infancy, says TrendForce, so companies behind major social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube will provide software tools and support services for the production of VR videos. People creating, uploading and sharing material on these platforms will result in the growth of user-generated VR content that will in turn attract more consumers.

The National Basketball Association has introduced VR broadcasting this season, according to the research firm, and The New York Times has also launched NYT VR, a free smartphone app that provides 360° news videos.

“The development of the VR industry is not solely based on wearable devices launched by major hardware vendors such as Sony, Oculus and HTC,” said Tsai. “Much of the growth drive also comes from independent developers that contribute innovative apps to the VR industry. Their market value is not often reflected in the data. Since making apps does not have a high entry barrier, there has been a proliferation of non-commercial software made by students, independent developers and content providers. Instead of being guided by immediate commercial interests, they aim to attract consumers’ attention with innovative products. Major device vendors are therefore aggressively courting these independent developers. Collaboration with academic institutions is also another way for the industry to diversify the VR content to create more value.”

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