Apple is rumored to be developing a dedicated headset for both VR and AR (virtual reality and augmented reality). In November of 2017, just a few months ago, Apple acquired Montreal-based Vrvana for a reported $30 million US dollars. The company only had a prototype, but the gear was causing a stir for those lucky enough to have experienced it.
Vrvana and Apple
Based on a story at TechCrunch Vrvana employees started appearing at Apple as Apple employees. The company’s product Totem, which never was released beyond prototypes, was apparently in the hands of key companies like Valve, Tesla, and Audi, among others.
Totem’s early prototype units (50 of them) apparently went for $5,000.USD each to industrial and commercial customers. The takeup by enterprise scale early users may have inspired Apple in acquiring this company. It bodes well for those in the AEC industry as first-round VR headset companies have concentrated on consumer-facing markets like gaming rather than professional-facing markets like architecture, construction, manufacturing, and sciences. An Apple-based AR-VR headset that was enterprise facing would be a fantastic move by the company and help cement its iPad and iPhone dominance in enterprise over Android.
Apple has filed its own AR-VR headset patents, which Architosh has published here.
Distinguishing aspects of Totem versus shipping headgear from the likes of Oculus and others include the fact that it mixes realities (enabling the user to experience both VR and AR at the same time). As you can see from the picture above, the device has two cameras that look like tiny eyes on the headset. Unlike the Microsoft Hololens, Vrvana’s Totem utilizes a camera-based VR approach. This method enables the Totem to overlay fully opaque, true-color animations on top of the real world versus the semi-transparent images that are projected onto the transparent, projection-based displays in devices like Microsoft’s Hololens.
Apple Wants Enterprise Usage
Apple may be less interested in AR-VR for gaming (VR’s original focus) and much more interested in enterprise verticals. TechCrunch makes note that Vrvana can allow a company’s “workforce to manipulate virtual objects with their own hands wherever they please,” according to promotional material from Vrvana. Tim Cook has been talking up AR in the past few years with increasing frequency while downplaying its hand in the market several years ago.
Apple Engineers at May Event
At the upcoming Display Week event in May 2018, Apple engineers are on tap to host talks, including in areas such as augmented and virtual reality, Micro LED, OLED, color gamuts, and capacitive screens. One talk, by Cheng Chen, a director with Apple’s Display Optics and Platform Technologies, will also cover eye tracking in AR/VR and with blue LEDs. AppleInsider has a complete report.
Apple’s focus on AR has largely been limited to patent filings, acquisitions like the Vrvana with its Totem headset, and specifically software as in its iOS-based ARKit SDK (software development kit). But it has snatched up other key companies along the way also (see the last paragraph of this report here).
(special note: This report owes some of its research to Pete Evans, senior associate editor)