Apple Hires VR Expert, Is the Company Making a VR Headset?

By on January 25, 2016 | 10:26 am
January 25, 2016 | 10:26 am
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Apple VR
January 25, 2016 | 10:26 am

For the past 18 months, critics and tech experts alike have been suggesting that virtual reality (VR) headsets will be the next ‘Big Thing’. Virtual reality allows users to experience media in a completely different way; whether that’s feeling like they are the actual character of a video game or experiencing a movie as though they are the star actor.

This year, several VR headsets are expected to hit the market including Oculus VR’s Oculus Rift, Sony’s PlayStation VR, and the HTC/Valve collaboration, the HTC Vive. According to estimates, the virtual reality market is expected to make $5.1 billion this year and one more company that (reportedly) wants a slice of that is Apple.

That suggestion comes from Apple itself, as the tech giant recently made a high profile new hire. One of the company’s newest employees is Doug Bowman, a (now former) researcher and professor at Virginia Tech who specializes in virtual reality. Not only is Bowman a VR expert, as Business Insider also notes, he also works in the field of 3D user interfaces, with the publication explaining that “he’s coming up with new ways to control what you see in VR when you don’t have something physical in your hands to work with.”

Not everyone is dead certain that Bowman will be working on Apple’s top secret VR project though, as The Financial Times, which broke the story, notes that Bowman’s skills would also be a fit for Apple’s vehicle division. However, there is far more evidence supporting the idea that an iHeadset (or whatever Apple may decide to call it) is in the works. For example, in May 2015, Apple purchased Metaio, a German company which specialized in AR (augmented reality) apps. The company also hired Nick Thompson, who previously worked on Microsoft’s AR headset, HoloLens.

And that’s not all as several years ago Apple picked up Israeli company PirmeSense (the brains behind the Xbox Kinect camera; a device which has gesture recognition), along with FaceShift, a company that does facial analysis and can help make animations look far more realistic.

Also supporting the theory that Apple is set to make big moves in the AR/VR headset market is Digi-Capital founder and managing director Tim Merel, who told VentureBeat that “with a track record of scaling new markets through innovation, Apple only does meaningful and significant. So the questions of focus, innovation, and timing are key.” Meanwhile, Joost van Dreunen, the chief executive officer at SuperData Research explained that “as the major players place their bets, it makes sense to remove a few key pieces, in this case a prominent VR researcher, off the board both as a defensive move and as part of Apple’s ongoing effort behind product innovation.”

So when can we expect to see the fruits of Apple’s labor (and the many inquisitions)? Unfortunately, it could be a while before Apple figures out what the headset will be like and how it will incorporate its other product lines but we’ll be eagerly awaiting an official reveal nonetheless.

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