Retail

Virtual Assistants Slated To Surpass VR This Holiday

Gadgets and gizmos, oh my. ‘Tis the season for buying and gifting electronics, with most people placing them at the top of their list. As for what type of electronic gift, analysts are now predicting a battle between those that start with the word virtual.

Virtual assistants are slated to steamroll virtual reality headsets this holiday shopping season for a variety of reasons, but many analysts spot price point per unit as the biggest culprit. It’s a departure from what analysts had originally speculated earlier this fall.

Virtual assistants are becoming so popular, they’re compounding their popularity in holiday shopping by helping shoppers find gifts. Amazon’s Alexa is poised to be one of the top gifts with its AI technology and $179.99 price point. Her main rivals are Amazon Echo Dot (about $40) and Google Home ($129), with experts suggesting that somewhere just under 12 million will sell before the holidays.

VR, however, may give a good fight, but it won’t be the biggest winner. Back in spring 2015, Piper Jaffray forecast that VR would the next biggest trend. Just recently, though, the investment firm slashed that estimate on sales of those headsets by 65 percent. The main reason is that VR comes with a high price tag as well as limited quantities and options. A family set of headsets can run thousands of dollars between Facebook’s Oculus Rift (about $600) and Sony’s PlayStation version (about $400). That said, there are more wallet-friendly options, like the $100 Gear VR headset from Samsung, which are experts are banking on being a winner.

Other big contenders this holiday shopping season are wearables, namely smartwatches, and drones. Smartwatches have almost become their own category. Nearly 13 million wearables will be sold, with the Apple Watch leading the pack. Wearables that don’t offer a wider variety of applications and facets will lose out more this holiday season and perhaps in the long run, according to experts.

Drones by unit are expected to surpass the million mark, which is twice that of last year’s holiday sales of the item with flying potential. Analysts note a slew of price offerings but aren’t sure if drones will soar beyond being a niche gift.

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