Apple Looking Into Virtual Reality

This could be exciting news for fans of the now fallen-from-grace Oculus Rift, and those interested in virtual reality machines in general. Apple appears to be getting more and more serious about researching and developing cutting edge virtual reality technologies! Early this year, they signed on Doug Bowman, a top virtual reality researcher and professor of computer science at Virginia Tech, as part of their staff. He also acted as the director of the university’s Center for Human-Computer Interaction. This shrewd head hunting move could bring Apple the expertise and experience necessary to catch up with rivals like Microsoft, Facebook, and Samsung Electronics that have been, as of yet, edging them out of virtual reality advancements. It looks as though Apple is now showing its teeth and getting down to business to make up for lost time.

About Dr. Bowman

Bowman’s work in academia has given him a strong background in topics related to virtual reality, such as human-computer interaction, computer science, three-dimensional user interface design, and the benefits of immersion in and interaction with virtual environments. Just a few months ago, Bowman, along with one of his colleagues, were bestowed with a $100,000 research grant from Microsoft to assist them in researching the collaborative analysis of large-scale mixed-reality data using a Hololens virtual reality device.

The Competition

Several companies have already made advancements on Virtual Reality devices that far outpace Apple’s achievements in the field. Time will tell if this new hire can make a significant difference in Apple’s involvement in the Virtual Reality arena.

Facebook made waves in 2014 when it bought out the then-grassroots company Oculus that was famously developing a crowdfunded virtual reality headset dubbed the Oculus Rift. It acquired this startup company at the price of 2 billion USD, but has yet to realise any profit, as the coveted virtual reality headset is only now available for preorder, with the actual production date still a long way off.

Samsung is manufacturing the Gear VR headset, which is being marketed as an all new way to experience movies and games in conjunction with its own brand smartphones. The Gear headset uses some of Oculus’s technology, but takes it in a very different direction.

Google Glass has been a highly publicised and at times even controversial piece of technology, but it is not technically a virtual reality device. Google Glass displays only a small “heads up display” with information that is overlaid over the users actual naked-eye view of “real” reality. It acts as a supplement to our actual reality, and not a “replacement” for it, as other more immersive headsets seek to become. Google does have a clever, though low budget contender in the VR market, though. It consists of a viewfinder made of cardboard into which you can slip a smartphone to experience stereoscopic VR imagery. It’s good for a few laughs and to get an idea of what virtual reality is like, but it’s certainly no competition for the higher end VR machines.

However, even Google’s cardboard cutouts are a step above what Apple currently has on offer in terms of virtual reality machines. In February of last year, Apple was granted a patent originally filed in 2008 on what seems to be a virtual reality headset, but there has been nothing but static since then. Truthfully, Apple has really been falling behind in the virtual reality game and it may be too late now for them to catch up with the other companies that already have years of experience under their belts. Hopefully this new hire represents Apple’s rekindled interest in the field and will lead to big things in the future!