Apple Has Secret Team Working on Virtual Reality Headset

Apple has expanded its research efforts in virtual and augmented reality, building out a large team that is experimenting with headsets and other technologies, reports Financial Times in a detailed post on the company's virtual reality work that covers recent hires and acquisitions.

Hundreds of employees are part of a "secret research unit" exploring AR and VR, with the team consisting of experts hired through acquisitions and poached from Microsoft and Lytro, the company that developed the Immerge, a Light Field power camera able to blend live action and computer graphics for a live action VR experience. Apple has also hired Doug Bowman, said to be one of the leading virtual reality experts in the United States.

In addition to recent AR/VR-related acquisitions Metaio, Faceshift, and Emotient, Apple has also just purchased Flyby Media, a startup that worked on augmented reality technologies. Flyby Media created an app that worked with Google's "Project Tango" smartphone with 3D sensors, allowing messages to be attached to real world objects that were then viewable by one of Google's devices.

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Most notably, Apple's AR/VR team is said to have built prototype virtual reality headsets that are similar to the Oculus Rift and the Hololens from Microsoft. Multiple prototypes of "possible headset configurations" have been created in recent months, with Apple's interest reportedly inspired by the Oculus Rift.

It is not clear if and when Apple's work on a headset prototype will make it past the development stage into an actual product, and the company often secretly works on technologies that never see the light of day. The scope of what Apple is building is also unknown, but Financial Times says that the company's work could potentially be useful for the Apple Car project.

Apple has had a team working on virtual and augmented reality technologies since at least early 2015, when rumors suggested there were a small number of employees investigating how Apple could incorporate the technologies into its products. Apple's interest in virtual reality dates back much further, however, and Apple has filed multiple patents over the years, for products like video goggles, motion-sensing 3D virtual interfaces for iOS devices, and 3D "hyper reality" displays.

Apple CEO Tim Cook was recently questioned on whether he believed virtual reality could go mainstream. He explained that he does not see virtual reality as a niche product, describing it as "really cool" with "some interesting applications."

Related Roundup: Apple Glasses

Top Rated Comments

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61 months ago
Hopefully Apple also has a secret team working on Macs that have GPUs that can run VR...
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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61 months ago
At this point, a bigger surprise would be a company without an AR/VR project.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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61 months ago
Isn't it OBVIOUS? Tim Cook says VR is "cool". 2 days later a rumour comes in that says there is a secret team working on VR.
Am I the only one thinking that this is just something pulled out of thin air based on what Tim said?
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
61 months ago
They have to or else Mac's/OS X will be dead if VR explodes. Not going to guarantee that VR is going to be a hit but I spent over $1500 upgrading my gaming PC and another $600 for a oculus rift preorder because I'm looking few new experiences. Not one penny went to Apple.
If Apple does not jump on it early their entire computer business is in trouble with "mainstream" buyers. It will be too late once the cost of premium headsets come down. If it wasn't for Samsung's incompetence in upgrading their flagship phones I would be using a Galaxy S6 with gear VR.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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61 months ago
it's not a secret anymore :D

with that being said, I'm still not interested..."a niche product"
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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61 months ago

VR so far is very gaming centric and Apple as no interest in gaming.

To get framerates and image quality that don't cause motion sickness, VR needs very high end hardware. There is nothing from Apple that comes close to being able to drive decent VR.

VR seems to be the complete opposite of what Timmy's Apple stands for. So, it should be interesting to see what they come up with. Maybe a google-cardboard clone that takes 2 watches instead of a phone. People can't rave about how much better than 2 screen system is than google's one screen version.

The article says AR/VR, not just VR. AR is not gaming-centric. Think of Microsoft's Halo Lens, rather than the Oculus Rift.

AR can be very useful for displaying content beyond what you see on your monitor and as you walk around in the real world.

AR does not need a high end GPU because it is not focused on controlling your entire sense but complement the eye vision, it would only need to overlay the content on top of the glass and can be purely text.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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