VR headset shipments 'to boom' in 2016
More than nine million virtual reality (VR) headsets will be shipped in 2016, suggests research by analyst firm IDC.
The estimate is far more than the 350,000 headsets that were sent out last year, it said.
Some of the growth will be down to the first consumer-ready versions reaching customers, said the firm.
However, most numerous will be the "screenless" systems that use smartphones as their main display.
IDC said it expected about two million headsets from Oculus, HTC and Sony to be shipped to consumers in 2016. The Oculus Rift headset began shipping on 28 March, HTC Vive headsets are due to start being dispatched this month and Sony's PlayStation VR should be available in October.
All these headsets are called "tethered" systems because they work with a PC or a game console that pipes images to their display.
Consumers will buy these headsets because they want to play video games in VR, said Lewis Ward, director of gaming at IDC. He said he expected to see lots of VR games appear in time for Christmas, which would boost sales.
In addition, said the research, there was growing interest in augmented-reality systems, such as Microsoft's HoloLens headset, that use a transparent display to overlay images and information on what people see. Few of these systems were ready for mainstream use, it added.
However, said IDC, screenless systems such as Samsung's Gear VR would be more popular than the tethered headsets.
These require a smartphone capable of handling the high-quality video used for VR and which possess sensors that can monitor movement and adjust what a user sees to give the impression of immersion in a computer-generated scene.
It said it expected other firms to release screenless viewers later this year to accelerate take-up.
By 2020, shipments of VR headsets should hit 64.8 million a year, it predicted.
IDC said headsets that lack electronics, such as Google's Cardboard viewer, were not included in its estimates.
The figures from IDC stand in contrast to those produced by analyst firm Gartner, which predicted that only 1.4 million VR headsets would ship in 2016.