The BBC called 2016 the year "VR goes from virtual to reality." With long backorders on the most popular devices and Samsung shipping VR headsets with their newest smartphone, the technology's momentum is unmistakable.
The question becomes, what industries will it start impacting first? A few might surprise you.
In the video below Motley Fool analysts Rex Moore and Eric Bleeker look through their recent travels to technology event South By Southwest to uncover what's new in virtual reality.
The first market VR is having a big impact on shouldn't surprise you: It's video games. Researcher New Zoo is projecting the global video game market at $99.6 billion in 2016.
For now, publishers like Activision-Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) and Take-Two (NASDAQ:TTWO) have taken a "wait and see" approach while the market builds. With initial buzz around video games centering on high-end PCs and more lightweight mobile headsets (like Samsung's Gear VR), its not surprising publishers would hold off on major investments.
However, that might change in 2016 thanks to the introduction of Sony's new PlayStation VR. Game publisher Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA), is already moving into the space, creating a tent pole edition of its Battlefront game for Sony's new PlayStation VR.
VR growth could present a compelling investing opportunity for these companies in coming years. Goldman Sachs' "base case" assumption is that VR video games will be a $6.9 billion market by 2020.
Beyond video games, VR is also having an impact in entertainment in theme parks. After installing virtual reality onto one of its older roller coasters, theme park operator Six Flags (NYSE:SIX) received an analyst upgrade and saw its stock soar the next day. The big picture is that VR could produce a new compelling experience for the park, and be used to refresh (on the cheap!) older rides that have declined in popularity.
To see Rex and Eric's full thoughts on different markets that virtual reality is impacting, simply watch the video below.