It’s hard to believe that it was only 11 years ago that VR captured the zeitgeist. In April 2012, Oculus hit Kickstarter with the Oculus Rift developer kit, and the tech world whipped itself into a “this is the future” frenzy. Facebook slapped a $2 billion check on the table and acquired the company in 2014.
But today, as it stands, VR is all but dead.
VR — as in, a system for being exclusively in virtual reality — barely exists as a concept anymore. Even the cheapest mainstream headset out there, the Meta Quest 2, has a passthrough feature, meaning it’s got AR capabilities. The Quest 3 adds higher-definition passthrough in full color. And, $3,500 price tag aside, Apple’s Vision Pro takes the concept so far that it doesn’t even really use the VR nomenclature anymore.
That’s because VR is missing the one crucial thing that could’ve taken it from “cool toy” to “must-have device”: a killer app. Even as the market has matured, VR is still struggling to find a reason to exist.
In 2015, TechCrunch published an article that speculated that the market could hit $150 billion of revenue by 2020. Here we are, nearing 2024, and it looks like the market sits at around $32 billion — a fifth of what the breathless analysts were guessing.