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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.

apple_patent_video_goggle.jpg

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."

Article Link: Apple Has Secret Team Working on Virtual Reality Headset
 

CFreymarc

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Sep 4, 2009
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AR and VR has a very rough road behind it. From some of the early systems twenty years ago having vertigo problems to process time to the weight of the headset and so on.

Quite interesting to see if this comes out for public demo.
 
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gigapocket1

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Mar 15, 2009
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Really trying to figure out how virtual reality will expand beyond video games...

I guess you could design a house or something and virtually walk thru it before you build/buy it.
 
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ProVideo

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Jun 28, 2011
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I was looking forward to the Oculus Rift until Facebook bought them out. No way I am giving any money to help support Facebook and increase Zuckerberg's billions. Hopefully Apple comes out with something that is a good competitor quick enough to prevent the Rift from dominating the market.
 
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DevNull0

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Jan 6, 2015
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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.
 
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MikhailT

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Nov 12, 2007
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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.
 
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pgiguere1

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May 28, 2009
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The Oculus Rift has a relatively low resolution (compared to the human's visual acuity limit), yet it still requires at least a GTX 970 for acceptable gaming performances. No Mac currently has a GPU as powerful as a GTX 970 for gaming. Anyway, I doubt this product would be aimed at Mac owners, since the userbase is pretty small compared to iOS device owners.

Assuming this will be for iPhones/iPads/Apple TVs, those will without a doubt have very weak GPUs compared to gaming desktop GPUs. Apple would then be unable to compete with PC VR headsets like the Rift in terms of graphics quality.

So I wonder what they will aim for. Non-gaming applications? Mobile-quality gaming? I'm very excited by VR, but not so much by the idea of using it to play low-quality, tasteless freemium mobile games on it.

VR Clash of Clans anyone? VR Facebook?
 
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Freida

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Oct 22, 2010
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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?
 
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ProVideo

macrumors 6502
Jun 28, 2011
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Really trying to figure out how virtual reality will expand beyond video games...

I guess you could design a house or something and virtually walk thru it before you build/buy it.
One thing off the top of my head is the recently release Nikon KeyMission 360 that records using the entire 360° view. Get a camera like that to stream and you could set these up and immerse yourself in environment on the other side of the world. Could be useful for sports. Also if you live far away from your family and are not able to visit on holidays, you could feel like you are there more than just what facetime provides. More ideas and uses will no doubt come as they become more widely available and used.
 
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cdm283813

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Jan 10, 2015
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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.
 
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