Specifically, VR can be out of the question for those with light sensitivity or needing corrective lenses. It’s a major gap in Oculus’s product, which has birthed a market for third-party solutions.
Two companies, in particular, are way ahead of this problem:
They offer lens inserts for every major VR headset on the market, solving both the light sensitivity and prescription lens problems in VR. (Whoever owns this patent is in a prime position to be acquired by Meta or one of the other VR companies.
It’s one of the most fascinating niché markets I’ve found in a while. And I’ll get into why I believe it’s at least a $6 Billion opportunity.
Blue Light VR Lenses
The market size for blue light filtering eyewear is estimated to reach $28 million by 2024 (up from $19 million in 2020). But I believe this is either grossly misstated or undervalued based on the fact that every lens manufacturer now offers blue light filtering as an add-on. Whether you buy your glasses online at Warby Parker or in-person at Costco, you can add a blue light filter.
I have light sensitivity issues. After a few hours in front of my laptop, my eyes hurt and the migraines start coming on. That’s why I rely on my blue light filtering glasses to get work done.
This makes using my Oculus VR headset for longer than an hour nearly impossible.
Although Oculus offers Night Mode which changes the colors to warm tones, this alters the experience. Blue light filtering lenses don’t change the color tones. And at $60-70, it’s not a bad product to invest in.
Prescription VR Lenses
Six out of ten people globally wear either glasses or contacts. Therefore, the much larger opportunity here is providing corrective lenses in VR. For reference, in 2021, the global prescription lens market size was valued at $45.3 billion the global contact lenses market size was valued at $14.6 billion.
Ryan has an interesting note on why these two companies are going to dominate:
I’ve worn glasses/contacts since I was five. So I’m very familiar with the optometry experience. Normally, I have to provide an optometrist prescription when I want to refill my contacts. And that prescription is only good for a year. Even though my prescription hasn't changed in a decade, I still have to get an eye exam whenever I refill my contacts.
The craziest thing to me is that it’s easier to buy prescription VR lenses than actual contact lenses or glasses. With the VR Optician and VR Wave, I just put my prescription numbers into the desired fields. And voila, I get prescription VR lenses without needing an actual doctor’s note. That’s huge! – Ryan
Once again, the Oculus offers a Glasses Spacer that you can put in the headset, allowing you to wear your glasses in VR. However, this is quite uncomfortable from what I’ve heard. Putting the corrective lens directly in the headset makes more sense.
With approximately 170 million VR users worldwide, that means over 100 million VR users wear glasses (assuming the 60% statistic above holds true among VR users). Therefore, we’re conservatively estimating a $6 Billion opportunity to provide prescription VR lenses. And it could be more considering prescription VR lenses start at $60 but increase based on your prescription.
Eye Exams in VR?
Hearing Ryan mention his pain points with visiting the eye doctor made me wonder if VR Optometry could be an actual service. In the future, could optometrists administer an eye exam in virtual reality?
With eye-tracking technology improving yearly, I don’t see why this would be out of the question. If I were an optometrist, I’d begin researching this opportunity immediately.