Americans Are Interested in AR, VR, and the Metaverse
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A study conducted on behalf of Protocol by the Harris Poll found that while most U.S. adults have not used augmented reality or virtual reality technology, a notable portion are interested in trying AR and VR. The study also found younger U.S. adults were more familiar with the metaverse than older U.S. adults, and that Americans are unsure about the future of the metaverse’s regulation.
While most U.S. adults have not used AR or VR tech, many are still interested in adopting the technology. Early adopters of AR and VR tech skew younger.
Three quarters (72%) of U.S. adults have not used any augmented reality technology.
Currently, 16% of U.S. adults have not heard of AR technology. Part of this may be due to current product hesitancy or disinterest: only a quarter (25%) of U.S. adults have no interest in using AR technology. On the other hand, younger adults are more willing to embrace AR, especially Millennials. One in three (32%) Millennials currently uses AR technology (compared to 23% of Gen Z, 14% of Gen X, 6% of Baby Boomers).
Although more hesitant, other “young” generations are also open to AR. 38% of Gen Z and 38% of Gen X have not used AR technology, but say they are interested in doing so.
Two-thirds (68%) of U.S. adults have not used any virtual reality technology.
Currently, 12% of U.S. adults have not heard of VR technology. Hesitancy and disinterest in VR is similar to AR. Again, just a quarter (26%) are not at all interested in trying VR. Youth interest is also higher for VR. Three in five (61%) Gen Zers and 45% of Millennials have used VR technology at least once (compared to just 31% of Gen X and 10% of Boomers).
Users of AR and VR technology have had enjoyable experiences with some of the more common products. The most used VR and AR technologies are:
VR headsets (e.g., Oculus, HTC Vive) (61% used; of those, 88% had a positive experience)
Mobile VR apps (33% used; of those, 66% had a positive experience)
AR social media tools (31% used; of those, 81% had a positive experience)
VR motion controllers (e.g., standard hand controllers, wands, wheels) (30% used; of those, 77% had a positive experience)
Unsurprisingly, younger people are more familiar with the metaverse than their older counterparts. Younger people also say more often that the metaverse will enrich their lives.
Two in three (62%) U.S. adults said they were not familiar with the concept of the metaverse before taking this survey.
That said, younger generations are more familiar with the metaverse. 55% of Gen Z and 60% of Millennials are at least somewhat familiar with the concept of the metaverse (compared to just 35% of Gen Xers and 17% of Boomers).
Regardless of familiarity levels, even after reading a description defining the metaverse, 52% of U.S. adults feel overwhelmed by the concept. Similar to other new technologies – most notably NFTs – such sentiment reveals a population that needs a seemingly complex and abstract topic to become more simplified and relatable in order for adults to embrace it.
Four in ten (37%) U.S. adults agree that the metaverse would be more fun than real life, and 38% agree that the metaverse would make their life better.
These numbers climb for Millennials. 53% agree that the metaverse would be more fun than real life, and 51% agree that the metaverse would make their lives better. These numbers also climb for people who were familiar with the metaverse before taking this survey. 54% agree that the metaverse would be more fun than real life, and 61% agree that the metaverse would make their life better.
U.S. adults are unsure about the future regulation of the metaverse. That said, a noteworthy share agrees that no one company should own all of the metaverse.
Overall, three in ten (27%) U.S. adults are not at all sure what group should regulate the metaverse, and another one in ten (9%) do not think the metaverse should be regulated. However, the vast majority of those previously familiar with the metaverse before taking this survey have an opinion of who should regulate the industry (92%).
Compared to just 19% of all U.S. adults, 28% of people who were familiar with the metaverse before taking this survey think metaverse and technology industry leaders should regulate the metaverse.
Those familiar with the metaverse say more often that regulation should be in the hands of users themselves. Compared to 14% of all U.S. adults, 21% of people who are familiar with the metaverse think metaverse users should be in charge of regulation. Across awareness levels, the U.S. government (11% all adults) and independent oversight committees (14%) were less popular regulatory options.
Despite controversy around the expanding power of big tech firms, only one in three U.S. adults (37%) say the metaverse should not be owned by any one company. Perhaps surprisingly, even fewer of those familiar with the metaverse before this survey feel this way (19%).
However, 63% of U.S. adults can see one company owning the metaverse. When asked who that one company would be, the top choices were Google (13%), Amazon (12%), Meta (11%), and Apple (10%).
For people previously familiar with the metaverse, the top choices shuffled slightly with Meta (17%) in the top spot followed by Google (16%), Amazon (15%), and Apple (13%). This could indicate a branding win for Meta among metaverse users and potential users.
The following companies had little support for ownership of the metaverse from U.S. adults:
Snap Inc. (0%)
The Sandbox (0%)
For less established brands or brands that target younger audiences, a lack of overall brand awareness likely played a role in their lower position.
This survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of Protocol during January 14-18, 2022, among 1,060 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the U.S. population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. For more information, please contact Madelyn Franz or Andrew Laningham.
Download the full data tables here.
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