Apple is apparently one of the most secretive technology company there is — at least among those that aren’t illegally playing around with human DNA. Apple is notoriously tight-lipped, but pulling off a project in the sphere of Vitual Reality is hard to keep under wraps. Late last year, we reported Apple’s acquisition of VR startup — Faceshift and hinted the iPhone makers may be taking a stroll towards the virtual reality world. Before that, back in 2010, Apple acquired Swedish facial recognition firm Polar Rose, a company which has filed several patent applications related to VR technology. Apple also snapped up PrimeSense a real time 3D motion capture technology firm in a US$350 million deal. Apple has also publicly shown significant interest in VR technology recently with CEO Tim Cook saying the technology is “really cool and has some interesting applications.” Now more evidence keep pointing to the fact that the Cupertino based tech giant may indeed be planning a VR related product and/or service.
Firstly, it may not be concrete enough evidence but its a good pointer — Apple Stores recently started selling a gadget that turns an iPhone into a virtual-reality headset. Yes, its not reason enough to make a definitive judgement, but it shows that Apple knows it can’t ignore phone-based virtual reality, which has been heavily invested in by its main OS rival Google (Alphabet). The gadget — View-Master— is basically a version of Google Cardboard, the budget friendly VR
platform developed by Apple’s archrival. Just like the Google cardboard, View-Master headset uses your phone as both its processor and its screen, using the Google Cardboard software and specs, only that this time it isn’t made of cardboard. Apple’s inclusion of the View-Master headset is perhaps the first if not the only time the tech giant has included a VR product in its online store in recent memory.
Also, Apple also snapped up Metaio , an augmented reality startup with a handful of impressive projects, that launched way back in 2003. Similarly, Apple also acquired FlyBy Media, a company that had previously worked with both Google and Apple on computer vision — a technology field closely linked to augmented and virtual reality. “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” — this is the response your likely going to get from Apple if you try asking why it’s buying VR Startups. Putting together these isolated acquisitions shows Cupertino might be putting together a substantial VR arsenal. Apple itself already has patents and assets across the field of 3D motion capture, facial recognition and augmented reality. Reports by BusinessInsider indicate, Apple has hired Doug Bowman , “a researcher from Virginia Tech who studies human-computer interaction, and, specifically, 3D interfaces — the kind of user interface that a new Apple virtual-reality headset would require.” Apple has also recently hired Nick Thompson , who according to reports was previously working Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented-reality headset. Frankly speaking, (or at least naively writing) no one really knows what these new guys will be doing at Apple’s R&D rooms, but considering their résumé — your guess is as good as mine.
Apple’s single largest revenue earner — the iPhone is a wildly successful product, but it faces its first sales decline since its 2007 inception. Analyst predict Apple is highly likely to ship a fairly less number of iphones in 2016 when compared with 2015. Thanks to a saturated smartphone market and a growing popularity of other brands — Apple is facing a great test. Whatever product Apple decides to throw at the tech market will face stiff competition from other established brands who have had years to carry out research on the products. So if Apple must play a winning game, the tech giant must venture into products from a relatively unexplored technology field like Virtual Reality.