Apple is increasing its focus on technology and products in virtual and augmented reality. The company now has a team of “hundreds” of people working on the technologies, according to Financial Times.
Increasing interest in VR/AR
Apple did research in VR in the mid-00s under Steve Jobs’ rule. Several patent applications reveal that the company was working on a headset not unlike the Oculus Rift. However, the company never released a product.
Apple is now showing renewed interest in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), according to the Financial Times. Virtual reality typically involved a headset in which a virtual world is created through computer graphics. With augmented reality you typically use a headset or a combination of a camera and a screen to “augment” objects or graphics on top of the real world that we see with our eyes.
”I don't think it's a niche. It's really cool”
FT says that Apple has a team of "hundreds" of employees working on the technologies. Some are recruited internally while other have come from other companies that Apple have acquired over the last few years. In recent years, Apple has acquired PrimeSense, Metaio, Faceshift, Emotient and most recently Flyby Media. PrimeSense’s technology was used in Microsoft’s original Kinect sensor for Xbox. Flyby Media has created technology that allows mobile phones to “see” the world around them. Flyby’s technology has been used in Google’s Project Tango.
Apple has also hired a leading researcher in virtual reality named Doug Bowman, who has been working at Virginia Tech.
For comparison, Oculus in June 2015 confirmed that it had a team of about 360 people working on VR.
Tim Cook, Apple CEO, recently commented on VR saying; "I do not think it's a niche. It's really cool and has some interesting applications".
There are of course no guarantees that Apple will release a consumer product but its competitors are already in the game. Samsung is working with Oculus, and HTC is working with Valve. Google has the VR cardboard but has much bigger plans. Sony will soon release the PlayStation VR. In AR, Microsoft is working on Hololens and a new company called Magic Leap has received huge amounts of money in venture capital.