Apple CEO Tim Cook's comments on virtual reality during this week's quarterly earnings call raised questions on if the company is planning to join the VR and AR bandwagon. A new report from Financial Times on Friday revealed that Apple is indeed serious about the growing virtual reality technology and secretly developing prototypes of the next-gen VR headset for the past several months.
Apple reportedly has a large team of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experts, poached from companies like Microsoft and Lytro and through acquisitions of several AR and VR tech companies such as Faceshift, Metaio and Emotient. Apple's most recent acquisition to boost its VR efforts was Flyby Media, which previously worked with Google on developing 3D positioning software for Project Tango, Financial Times reported.
Apple purchased Metaio, a German based AR firm, in May last year and then acquired Faceshift, a motion capture firm that can render human-like gestures onto the faces of virtual characters, in November 2015. Apple's acquisition spree dates back to as early as 2013, where it purchased PrimeSense, which closely worked with Microsoft in the development of first-gen Kinect hardware for Xbox 360.
The Cupertino-based tech titan also hired some popular AR and VR experts to help with its ongoing project. Last week, Apple hired Doug Bowman, a skilled researcher in the virtual reality field whose research project won a Microsoft grant for using the HoloLens device. Apple also hired a former lead audio engineer of Microsoft's HoloLens project Nick Thomson back in August, according to a Fortune report.
Virtual Reality is getting its share of attention and expected to see a major breakout this year. Facebook's Oculus Rift is set for release this March and HTC too is planning to release its Vive headset this year. Sony's PlayStation VR is also a contender in the VR race. Bigger players such as Microsoft and Google are also working on their projects HoloLens and Google Glass, respectively, and it will be foolish to think Apple will sit back and watch while the world takes on technological challenges.
Apple already has several patents linked to AR applications, such as transparent displays, mapping solutions on mobiles and virtual displays powered by iPhones, Apple Insider noted.