At last year’s Mobile World Congress also known as MWC things were more about connecting something to smartphones. The mainstream was VR and its many various types. But one of the most known key players is still hanging back on this new trend. Apple shows some interest on this field, but is it merely a strategy for the moment, or a long commitment?
What is VR?
VR applications, games and experiences can create entire new worlds. Landscapes and other types of experiences are right in front of the users’ eyes. They can interact with objects which have no correspondent in the real life. Augmented reality is another piece of the pie. It’s something that many phones/apps have been doing recently. Even Google tried it with their Google Glasses. You see the world in front of you, but augmented reality brings virtual components over top. With some you’ll be able to interact. But are e.g. 3D glasses more practical than traditional TVs? User studies show that VR/AR glasses have still a long way to go. We had high expectations with Microsoft’s Hololens but the technology is not yet available commercially (in a reasonable price range).
Rumors or just strategy?
Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook said that he sees some interesting applications around the VR. We also heard that they already hired some VR experts and funded a 360 degree music video. However, Tim Cook suggested that the company will not make the multi-billion dollar move into VR. Yet, Apple has taken this new technology seriously. When has this happened? Well, in 2015 the company commissioned 360 degree videos for Muse, The Weeknd and U2. All of them were under the Apple Music banner.
The company started investing slowly into the virtual reality technology. Doug Bowman, spent 5 years at the Virginia Tech University making research on three dimensional user interfaces design. On the benefits of immersion in the virtual environments, Apple has been toying for a while with the research and experiments around VR hardware and content. App Store started providing us with more insight on the future generation of VR apps, created by other companies. Some of them are Milk, the founder of Vrse and the startup Littlstar which released a 360 video app for Apple TV and iOS.
The company has ringside a seat to see how thess apps catch on and what will mean for its own VR ambitions. Even if Apple still holds back, iOS will become an important platform for VR, all because of YouTube and Facebook. Both companies added features for 360 degrees videos back in 2015.
We believe Apple is analyzing right now how popular VR videos and 360 apps really are. At the moment, we think they are just monitoring their potential competitors (Gear VR, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift and so on). But a product could come up on horizon soon.
The Possible Prototype
We spotted a new Apple patent. It’s described as a Head Mounted Display Apparatus for Retaining a Portable Electronic Device With Display. Quite a long name. That portable device that has a display is definitely the iPhone. An it connects to the headset through the Lightning port. Other images show a handheld remote that looks a lot like the iPod. Not very clear. It can also be a motion controller, something similar to HTC Vive’s label and Goggle Daydream View.
The headset appears to have built-in headphones, a wheel to control the focus, a set lenses, a touchpad, home and back buttons and a proximity sensor. Some other details explain that once the phone is connected, it will override the touchpad and the button controls. This headset comes with its own memory, sensor, processor and a chargeable battery placed underneath the lenses.
Yet again, from stylus accessories, phablet sized smartphones and to streaming music, this is not the first time Apple has criticized a new tech trend. At least it’s nice to see that Apple is entertaining our curiosity with this headset concept.
Do you believe Apple will come up with a revolutionary VR technology in the near future?