Ownership levels of virtual reality (VR) headsets are surpassing wearables and tablets at the same stage of their lifecycle, with affordable devices helping to boost adoption of the immersive technology.

According to research from YouGov, some 6% of the British population own a VR headset. At the equivalent time of distribution and widespread release, wearable technology had 4% penetration and tablets had 3% (see chart below).

Virtual reality v tablet v wearables

VR headset sales have increased from 3% in the fourth quarter of 2016 to 6% in the first quarter of this year. 

The growth is attributed to the uptake of low-end headsets, such as the very affordable Google Cardboard which is reported as directly popularising the otherwise expensive VR technology across a wider market.

The YouGov study, VR: A Deeper Perspective, found that currently, the majority (79%) of VR headsets owners said they were compatible with mobile devices, Samsung Gear was the favourite (22%) followed by Google Cardboard (21%) as a close second.

The affordability of these devices has enabled a wide distribution.

However, the high-end headsets are increasing in popularity, accounting for a total 16% of the market according to the research, with Playstation VR at 10%, Oculus Rift at 3% and HTC Vive also 3%. 

Sky exec Richard Nockles recently hailed VR as “the ultimate social experience”. It is also predicted that VR headsets will become widely adopted by companies and brands investing in VR specific content, travel companies sharing details about luxury hotels or destinations through high definition VR content.

Sports broadcasting has already embraced VR content creation, with BT airing the Champions League final in VR exclusive content, which followed on from ITV partnering to broadcast the Grand National horse race earlier this year.

Digital innovation has led to a synchronised existence between the technology and media worlds. Technology has changed the way media is consumed and created, with media companies expanding the way in which their content is delivered to their audiences, shaped by the VR devices.

The affordable devices such as Google Cardboard and the bundling of the Samsung Gear with a Samsung smartphone have helped to drive the rapid growth of the VR market sector.

The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are the high-end achievers, with a growing consumer popularity despite the price tag.

VR headsets on the market range in price and features. Here are some of the most popular: 

HTC Vive

”Putting on the Vive headset washes away the real world with fantastical experiences”

  • £759 at Vive 
  • Requires a powerful PC
  • 70 sensors to offer 360-degree head-tracking  
  • 90Hz refresh rate –  for low latency, to reduce motion sickness 
  • Front facing camera which blends real world elements to the virtual world 
  • Two wireless handheld controllers with 24 sensors for tracking


Htc vive headset

HTC Vive headset and controllers 


Don’t miss HTC Vive President Viveport & SVP Virtual Reality Rikard Steiber speaking in the technology forward keynote at IBC2017

Oculus Rift 

”Rift is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced” 

  • £549 at Oculus for Rift and touch controllers package 
  • Requires a powerful PC
  • Plugs into your computer’s DVI and USB ports and tracks your head movements to provide 3D imagery on its stereo screens
  • 2160 x 1200 resolution, works at 233 million pixels per second, with a 90Hz refresh rate
  • Low-latency constellation tracking system


Oculus rift

Oculus Rift VR headset


Sony Playstation VR

“Immerse yourself in extraordinary new worlds, put yourself at the centre of an incredible gaming universe and experience a new way to play with PlayStation VR”

  • £349 at Playstation VR
  • VR console for gaming with the PS4 and Playstation camera
  • 3D audio and microphone to chat with fellow gamers 
  • 100 degree field of view and 120 frames per second
  • Refresh rate of (up to) 90Hz, or 120Hz using its ‘reprojection’ technology 
  • Less than 18ms latency
  • 5.7” OLED 3D screen


Playstation vr headset

Playstation VR headset


Samsung Gear VR

”Put on the Gear VR and go from front-row experiences to adventures you’ve only dreamt of”

  • £60 at Samsung 
  • Compatible with Samsung phones, including the Galaxy S8 and S8+ and S7 and S7 Edge
  • Controller to help with the immersive VR content
  • 101 degree view 
  • Gyroscope and accelerometer proximity sensor (sampling rate: 1KHz)




Google Cardboard 

“Experience virtual reality in a simple, fun affordable way”

  • Compatible universally with any smartphone
  • Handheld headset with no frills
  • Buy preassembled or download the template and make it yourself
  • Google Cardboard apps for content, as well as being able to view 360-degree environments on Google Street View or watching 360 degree content on YouTube


Googel cardboard

Google Cardboard VR headset 

Google Daydream 

”Daydream takes you on incredible adventures in virtual reality. Get ready to immerse yourself in new experiences”

  • £69 at Google store
  • Google and Android smartphone compatible VR headset 
  • Google content VR apps and 360-degree compatability, like the Cardboard
  •  Built from soft material, rather than hard plastic like the previous VR headsets 


Google day dream headset

Google Daydream VR headset


Challenging the standards

Technicolor Vice President for Technology and Standards Alan Stein said: ”There’s a massive standards challenge in VR on the delivery and consumption side because several major players in the industry have developed end-user devices; that is, the headsets. Google, Facebook, and Samsung are all interested in enhancing their own software ecosystems.

”These are basically de facto standards, as opposed to having broad, traditional industry standards – yet creators and distributors would prefer to produce content only once. Unfortunately, just as they have to make separate applications for iOS and Android phones, they (we) have to make different versions of content for different headsets. That’s just one of the challenges in VR standards.”

”It’s vital for us to come together and develop an integrated strategy so we can make the most effective contribution to the development of VR and future immersive experience standards.” - Alan Stein