Ahead of Mintel forecasts for 2017, Senior Trends Consultant Richard Cope, takes a timely look back at how we fared with our 2016 predictions.

My Mind’s Eye

Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies enter our homes and businesses to entertain, trial and train.

The momentum of this one rapidly saw it crowned and rechristened as a Trend in its own right, named ‘Alternative Realites’, although consumer adoption was more out of home than in. We’ve seen VR emerging as a commercial leisure proposition in its own right, with a VR cinema in Amsterdam and a VR rollercoaster at the UK’s Alton Towers theme park.

In the absence of official sales figures industry figures have estimated that the HTC Vive shifted a relatively modest 100,000 units in its first three months, but Mintel’s data shows that consumer awareness is growing: 70% of consumers had heard of the technology in July 2016, up from just half a year earlier. For an emerging market, VR is starting to find an audience: Mintel’s research shows that around one in 10 UK consumers have now used a headset, peaking at 20-24s, whilst around three in 10 non-users say they are interested in trying the experience.

Not bad considering that Microsoft Hololens is still only available to developers and that we still have no release date for Magic Leap. Expect things to kick-on this October when Sony’s PlayStation VR headset goes on sale at a relatively affordable £349.

Consumer awareness of VR has been given a massive boost by brands like McDonalds’s and Coca Cola creating and giving away their own Google Cardboard style packaging, turning their customers’ smartphones into VR viewers and AR has mainstreamed thanks to the Pokémon GO craze and the slew of brands fighting for a slice of the action.

Our Trends analysts have also documented how VR is being employed in increasingly daring and inspirational ways, beyond the boundaries of mere escapism. For instance, we’ve seen how French and Hong Kong surgeons are giving patients VR headset to help diagnosis during operations and how the University of Southern California Institute of Creative Technologies is using VR to help war veterans in therapy.

Retail is another new front in VR, with IKEA enabling people to virtually build rooms with its products, South Korea’s Hyundai Department Store creating an online “VR Store” and Alibaba has announcing plans to develop virtual reality payment technology that allows users to pay with a nod of their heads.

Mintel’s 2017 Predictions are coming. Please contact us to get your digital or hard copy, attend one of our Big Conversation events or have us visit you to present our findings.

See how Mintel’s Pond Filter trend prediction played out in 2016 here.

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