EDITORS CHOICE 01.02.16

Apple ramps up VR efforts

Apple VR Headset iphone

Apple is investing heavily in research efforts to develop augmented and virtual reality systems for the future, and making all the necessary moves in the market to suggest they plan on being a dominant force in the industry.

The company looks to have joined players including Microsoft and Google in the race to be the first to bring AR and VR to the market on a significant scale.

According to the Financial Times, Apple recently added to its virtual and augmented reality acquisitions – including 3D sensing company PrimeSense (2013), AR software and content creator Metaio and motion capture startup Faceshift (2015) – with Flyby Media, a US-based mobile applications business with a focus on spatial perception. The company had previously partnered with Google to collaborate on Project Tango to bring 3D mapping to mobile devices.

Alongside an augmented map feature allowing users to point their phone and interact with their surroundings, Apple also are thought to be working on a prototype of an iPhone-compatible VR headset they patented in early 2015.

Apple is also putting together an experienced workforce to advance its AR and VR output. Virginia Tech’s computer science professor and VR researcher Doug Bowman recently came on board, joining previous employees at Microsoft’s HoloLens division and light field camera startup Lytro. They face competition in companies like Microsoft, who have already formed a team of over a 1,000 people for its HoloLens project alone, in comparison to Apple’s team of 100 (as reported in the Wall Street Journal).

Speaking on the potential widespread use of VR, Apple CEO Tim Cook commented: “I don't think it's a niche. It's really cool and has some interesting applications.”

Recent patents secured by Amazon, alongside Facebook’s Oculus Rift acquisition and Samsung’s Gear VR indicate stiff competition for Apple as they look to develop new technology beyond the iPhone. Juniper Research foresee that augmented-reality technology used in enterprises will increase tenfold to €2.2 ($2.4) billion from €227 ($247) million last year.