Main image of article Is the Immersive Reality Market a ‘Dead Zone’ for Tech Jobs?

Meta infamously poured billions of dollars into the “metaverse,” its term for an ecosystem of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) apps, but its hardware and software sales haven’t made up for that outlay. Apple plans on launching its expensive Vision Pro VR headset in early 2024, but nobody knows if the device will enjoy a massive audience. In other words, it’s uncertain times for what some analysts have coined the “immersive reality” market.

However, a new report from consulting firm McKinsey, Technology Trends Outlook 2023, suggests the market will grow thanks to some comparatively “old school” technology: phones and tablets running AR and VR apps.

“Consumer adoption slowed, with worldwide shipments of VR headsets and AR devices declining more than 12 percent in 2022 after 2021 saw increased sales of home-entertainment devices during the pandemic lockdown and increased inflationary pressures in 2022 tempered consumer spending,” the report added. “However, use of AR on flat devices (for example, phones) continues to rise: the installed base of AR apps increased from 1.03 billion in 2016 to 6.06 billion by 2022.”

There’s also every chance the immersive reality market could gain momentum, at least in a professional context. “Enterprise adoption is expected to continue rising even further as digital-twin use cases with the potential to improve efficiency across operating environments (for example, warehouses, clinical trials, and retail stores) emerge,” the report concluded.

In the meantime, software developers, engineers, and other tech pros who specialize in VR and AR can expect to earn hefty compensation, especially if they work at a company like Meta willing to pay top dollar for this kind of talent. In April, Washington Post report suggested Meta’s “metaverse” engineers (tasked with building out VR apps and services) were earning as much as $1 million per year, depending on their seniority and specialization., which crowdsources compensation data for a variety of tech professions, pins median total compensation for VR/AR software engineers at $252,000 per year, more than double the average tech professional salary of $111,348 per year.

The market for immersive reality isn’t dead by any extent of the imagination, although it might remain slightly niche unless companies’ hardware offerings start to enjoy mainstream popularity. In the meantime, those interested in building AR and VR software have their options when it comes to tools and documentation, including IDEs for Meta's VR platform, items for Apple’s upcoming Vision Pro headset, Unity’s developer tools, and more.