Apple has never been too vocal about its ambition in the field of virtual or augmented reality technology. However, during the investor call earlier this week, CEO Tim Cook had admitted that the technology was “really cool” and has “some interesting applications”.
And now towards the same goal, Apple has also acquired another company called Flyby Media in the segment after it had acquired Faceshift and Metaio last year. Flyby Media is an augmented-reality startup which develops technology for mobile devices to scan the area around them and map spaces.
It is the same company which has worked with Google on its Project Tango. According to its website, it has also worked with Apple in the past and built “a proprietary iPhone-based product to create scalable floor plans for integration into Apple’s MapsConnect program”.
Apple has confirmed its acquisition without divulging any details in its trademark style, “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” However, Apple declined to comment anything on its plans in the augmented/virtual reality technology.
However, according to a report by the Financial Teams, Apple has indeed been working on the current hot pie of tech sector, and perhaps more seriously than anybody thought.
Apple has assembled a large team of experts in virtual and augmented reality and built prototypes of headsets that could one day rival Facebook’s Oculus Rift or Microsoft’s Hololens, as it seeks new sources of growth beyond the iPhone,
reported The Financial Times.
The “hundreds of staff” in its secret research unit are gathered through its various acquisitions of the companies working in augmented/virtual reality technology as well as poaching employees working on next-gen devices in other companies such as Microsoft and camera start-up Lytro. Just a few days back, Apple also roped in a leading VR researcher named Doug Bowman in its team.
This is, however, not the first steps of the Cupertino giant in this field. Reportedly, in the mid-2000s, under the then CEO Steve Jobs, Apple had experimented with the virtual reality technology and created a number of prototypes and filed patents. However, that did not work out and Apple abandoned the idea deeming the tech as immature at that time.
However, over the last few years, the technology has come quite far and is on its way to becoming matured enough, having captured the attention of many top tech giants.
Be it the Google’s relentless pursuit of the tech despite an almost failed attempt at Google Glass, or Facebook’s ambitious plans from its acquisition of Oculus Rift for $2.4 billion; be it the much grander vision of Microsoft with Hololens or the recently launched, Ocukus-powered Samsung Gear VR headset– every major tech company is vying to grab a share of the future of technology.
Apple too, in addition to its acquisitions and new appointments, has filed its own patent for an iPhone based VR headset. However, it is still not clear what would the final product from Apple would look like as Apple may not be looking for launching a VR/AR headset.
This is because last year, its Chief Design Officer, Sir Jonathan Ive had said that the face was the “wrong place” to put this technology after the less than enthusiastic response to Google Glass.
According to people familiar with the company’s plans, the Cupertino giant is further looking for acquisitions in optical technologies to work towards its vision in augmented/virtual reality tech.