Consumer trends on AR and VR – how Arm Mali-G76 can improve the “otherworldly” experience

“Otherworldly”, “amazing” and “life changing” are three of the most popular terms used by consumers to describe the first time they try Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). A report from TECHnalysis Research, a leading technology analyst firm, identified the public’s views, opinions and attitudes towards AR and VR, after it conducted an online survey of 1,000 US consumers. The survey respondents were all gamers who own at least one type of AR or VR capable device. This meant the survey results provided an interesting snapshot of the current state of AR and VR, its strengths and weaknesses, the type of devices being used (e.g. smartphones or standalone devices), and ideas for the future development and take-up of the technologies.

The AR and VR markets are important to the Arm Mali-G76 announced as part of our new suite of IP for Premium Mobile Experiences back in May 2018. The GPU delivers 30 percent more performance density and energy efficiency when compared to Mali-G72. This combination of performance and efficiency enables a better user experience and improved battery life, making power-hungry AR and VR more viable over a longer period of time. Therefore, gaining a further understanding of consumer trends and attitudes towards AR and VR is critical for Arm, as we develop our offering in these markets.

Gaming tops AR and VR applications

As you would expect from a survey of gamers, gaming emerged as a hugely important area for AR and VR, topping the list of the most common applications that respondents use on their devices. 55 percent of respondents said that they use their AR or VR device primarily for gaming. The most common gaming activity was intensive gaming, such as first-person shooters, which supports the wider trend towards more immersive gaming experiences – particularly on mobile (read our 2017 report on High-Fidelity gaming for additional insight on this).

Friends using VR

VR travel and exploration enticing consumers

We know that gaming is an important use case for AR and VR, but it was interesting to see other experiences enticing consumers to try out the technologies. This included virtual travel and exploration, which was considered to be one of the top five AR and VR applications. Nearly half (46 percent) were excited about the possibility of seeing other parts of the world through virtual travel. One respondent even said: “It (VR) gives people the experiences they may never get to have in real life. I’ve wanted to travel the world for years and just don’t have the money or time. This (VR) gives me the experience to do that.” The big challenge for vendors of virtual travel is raising awareness about the possibilities of this VR application, which could mean greater efforts being made to encourage users to experience it for themselves.

AR and VR adoption and satisfaction

The satisfaction with the current AR and VR experience is relatively high, particularly among the mainstream, well-known mobile-based devices, such as Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift, and also on desktop-based devices, such as Sony PlayStation VR and HTC Vive VR. Ease of use was a favorite characteristic, with 67 percent noting this in the survey. Respondents also liked the realism of the overall experiences.

Despite the high satisfaction with the overall user experience, AR and VR devices are still only being used occasionally on a daily basis – even among the regular gamers surveyed. The average daily usage was around 18 percent, but this figure does increase to 38 percent for weekly usage. The average playing time is also relatively short at just under 40 minutes.

Among the devices, smartphone-based VR was the most popular – more so than PC or console-based VR and other standalone VR devices. 76 percent of respondents that have used an AR or VR product have used a mobile system connected to a smartphone. However, when looking specifically at AR, smartphone-based AR app adoption is still limited, with roughly half of respondents not using them.

VR headset experience

Hardware and visuals challenges

The uncomfortable hardware and poor visuals were noted as two of the most challenging characteristics of VR. In fact, higher resolution screens were most in demand from users, suggesting feature enhancements for visuals are likely to be required as the technology develops. The dreaded VR-inspired motion sickness was another challenge associated with the overall experience, with more than 40 percent experiencing this on at least one occasion. You could probably link the relatively short playing time to the challenges associated with the visuals and motion sickness, as both negative characteristics would provide time limitations.

For non-buyers of AR or VR, price was noted as one of the key barriers to buying a device – 45 percent said it was too expensive to own a headset. The overall average price, according to the TECHnalysis report, across all AR and VR devices used by respondents was $217. However, it must be noted that current trends suggest that this cost is going down, making it far more affordable and accessible for new users.

In many ways, the report reiterated a fact that many already know about AR and VR – users are looking for improved visual experiences on comfortable devices at a reasonable price. This is why a key characteristic of the Arm Mali-G76 is providing high-quality visual experiences on AR and VR applications through performance and efficiency density improvements. Providing more immersive AR and VR experiences on devices that last longer without charge can address the challenges of consumer take-up and relatively short usage times in a single sitting.

Man using VR headset

Early days, but the potential is huge

It is encouraging to see that the overall satisfaction with AR and VR is high, but it is still early days for the technologies with technical challenges such as the visuals and uncomfortable hardware still factors. One comment from a survey respondent summed it up neatly: “They (AR and VR) are awesome but need work”. The positive news is that consumers who use AR and VR, love the applications. The challenge is encouraging further take-up.

Ultimately, the best way to achieve this aim is offering consumers the chance to dive in and experience VR. As one respondent said: “They allow you to see and experience things some people could only dream.” However, there are currently limited opportunities for consumers to experience AR and VR for themselves.

Enabling higher-quality visuals, sorting out the issues with motion sickness, getting the cost down, designing smaller products, and then creating opportunities for consumers to see and experience AR and VR for themselves will help the technology go from strength-to-strength. The Mali-G76 certainly has a significant role to play in enabling this higher-quality user experience on AR and VR applications.

We’ll be exploring AR and VR gaming more in the new year through a new Arm-commissioned report from the market intelligence agency Newzoo, so watch this space for further insight!

Learn more about how Arm is supporting more immersive AR and VR experiences by clicking on the link below.

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Graphics & Multimedia blog