Rumor: Apple has 'hundreds of staff' working on virtual & augmented reality projects

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in Future Apple Hardware
Through a series of acquisitions, Apple has a considerably large staff dedicated to experimental virtual reality and augmented reality projects, some of whom are reportedly working on prototype headset configurations that could one day compete with the likes of Facebook's Oculus Rift.


Apple patent illustrating an augmented reality iPhone mapping app.


Details on Apple's apparent VR and AR initiatives were revealed on Friday by the Financial Times, which indicated that Apple has been building prototype headsets for "several months." The report also revealed that Apple had acquired a company called Flyby Media, an augmented reality firm that had previously worked closely with Google.

Apple's interest in virtual and augmented reality is no secret, as a number of acquisitions and patent applications fall directly into those fields. But the fact that the company has allegedly experimented with building prototype hardware headsets, the likes of which could compete with Oculus or Microsoft Hololens or even Google Glass, may come as a surprise.

The revelations also come only a few days after Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook was asked about his thoughts on virtual reality. In brief comments made during his company's quarterly earnings conference call, Cook said he thought VR is "cool," and suggested it won't be a niche product as it matures.

In terms of acquisitions, Apple purchased German augmented reality firm Metaio in May of last year. And in 2013, Apple also purchased PrimeSense, which collaborated with Microsoft for the first-generation Kinect hardware for Xbox 360. Then, last November, Apple confirmed it acquired motion capture firm Faceshift, whose technology is capable of rendering human-like gestures onto the faces of virtual characters.

Apple also holds a variety of patents covering a wide gamut of augmented reality applications, including transparent displays, mobile mapping solutions and iPhone-powered virtual displays. One particularly interesting property details a smartphone that can identify physical objects in real time using computer vision.


Source: Microsoft


Rumors first cropped up last March suggesting that Apple has a small team tasked with experimental work in the field of augmented reality. But Friday's report would suggest that since that time, Apple's team devoted to the new technology has grown considerably, whether just through acquisitions or otherwise.

Augmented reality is a layer of digital information overlaid onto the physical world, allowing information such as instantly accessible navigation directions in the user's field of view. The most well-known implementation of AR is Google Glass.

iPhone users can get a very basic taste of virtual reality thanks to the Google Cardboard project, which turns a handset into a cheap and easy way to test out VR apps available on the App Store. AppleInsider's comprehensive roundup of the best virtual reality apps for iPhone can help you get started.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    File this under no shit Sherlock.

    a slow news day so Apple leaks a few things to remind Wall Street they've got stuff in the pipeline.
    edited January 2016
  • Reply 2 of 23
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 1,996member
    A virtual car?
    cnocbuiradarthekat
  • Reply 3 of 23
    steviestevie Posts: 956member
    Apple will reinvent Virtual Reality and finally make it a big hit, just like the iPod!
    cali
  • Reply 4 of 23
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    The other day I was in a Nintendo forum and the fans were talking about how Occulus/Samsung thingy/PS VR are fads that make people look like morons. They posted various photoshopped versions of this guy:

    I agreed and said the ugly helmets/goggles are interesting but too nerdy/clunky/unaccesible to be the future.

    I said if anyone gets it right it'll be Apple or MAYBE Nintendo. They'll be the first to make something usable that doesn't make you look like a geeky cyborg.
    patchythepirate
  • Reply 5 of 23
    tmaytmay Posts: 2,644member
    Duh.


    Edit.

    Let me rephrase that.

    Duh, but AR is way cooler and will work on a broad range of iDevices now.
    edited January 2016
  • Reply 6 of 23
    steviestevie Posts: 956member
    cali said:
    The other day I was in a Nintendo forum and the fans were talking about how Occulus/Samsung thingy/PS VR are fads that make people look like morons. They posted various photoshopped versions of this guy:

    I agreed and said the ugly helmets/goggles are interesting but too nerdy/clunky/unaccesible to be the future.

    I said if anyone gets it right it'll be Apple or MAYBE Nintendo. They'll be the first to make something usable that doesn't make you look like a geeky cyborg.


    If anybody knows how to make a geeky product sexy, it is Apple.  The iMac in Bondi Blue proved it.
    nolamacguy
  • Reply 7 of 23
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 1,996member
    cali said:
    The other day I was in a Nintendo forum and the fans were talking about how Occulus/Samsung thingy/PS VR are fads that make people look like morons. They posted various photoshopped versions of this guy:

    I agreed and said the ugly helmets/goggles are interesting but too nerdy/clunky/unaccesible to be the future.

    I said if anyone gets it right it'll be Apple or MAYBE Nintendo. They'll be the first to make something usable that doesn't make you look like a geeky cyborg.
    When evaluating tech, how I look to someone else is absolutely last on the list of important things to me. Any idea how stupid people look when they are walking across a busy street staring into their iPhones? Apple made the wires hanging out of your ears when using an iPod an icon pop culture thing, but it looks absurd. When using a VR headset, I'm actually unable to see how I look, and what someone else thinks is wholly unimportant to me.

    That said, my Apple Watch is at least part fashion accessory, so YMMV. But...I am wholly comfortable with looking like a dork when using something important to me. Or...as someone pointed out...any idea how stupid you look like taking a crap? Try doing without.
    nolamacguyafrodripalomine
  • Reply 8 of 23
    brucemcbrucemc Posts: 1,398member
    I would expect Apple to have small teams focusing on multiple possible product areas (TV, VR, AR,...).  
  • Reply 9 of 23
    irelandireland Posts: 17,125member
    I see Apple focusing more on augmented reality for now. This would have obvious uses like HUD augment directions in the glass dash of Apple Car. The Maps team needs to fix errors and problems more quickly though. Sometimes they refuse to fix obvious errors in their Irish map data. They need to ASAP hire 150 more people exclusively for this specific task.
    edited January 2016 macplusplus
  • Reply 10 of 23
    Apple has been researching vr and ar since mid 2000… I know it for a fact through jobs listings then. Apple is not develpoing a team.. Apple has been deep into developing actual products for a long time.
    palomineRayz2016
  • Reply 11 of 23
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    eightzero said:
    cali said:
    The other day I was in a Nintendo forum and the fans were talking about how Occulus/Samsung thingy/PS VR are fads that make people look like morons. They posted various photoshopped versions of this guy:

    I agreed and said the ugly helmets/goggles are interesting but too nerdy/clunky/unaccesible to be the future.

    I said if anyone gets it right it'll be Apple or MAYBE Nintendo. They'll be the first to make something usable that doesn't make you look like a geeky cyborg.
    When evaluating tech, how I look to someone else is absolutely last on the list of important things to me. Any idea how stupid people look when they are walking across a busy street staring into their iPhones? Apple made the wires hanging out of your ears when using an iPod an icon pop culture thing, but it looks absurd. When using a VR headset, I'm actually unable to see how I look, and what someone else thinks is wholly unimportant to me.

    That said, my Apple Watch is at least part fashion accessory, so YMMV. But...I am wholly comfortable with looking like a dork when using something important to me. Or...as someone pointed out...any idea how stupid you look like taking a crap? Try doing without.
    W. T. F.????

    Since when did Apple not care about aesthetics, usability and accesibility?????

    Apple has been on a roll since the iMac.

    EDIT: I think I may have misunderstood your post. Of course you'll look stupid to some degree doing anything.
    My post was more about the actual hardware and how nerdy it looks when people interact with that complicated bulky hardware.
    I believe Apple will simplify the tech to make it look less "technological" and less intimidating to something more natural or "fashionable". iPhones were the first phones that looked cool and Apple's earbuds were fashionable as heck back then, same approach with AppleWatch.

    I don't see Apple pushing a hideous helmet or goofy goggles like those companies who "have no taste". (Steve Jobs reference)
    edited January 2016
  • Reply 12 of 23
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    there is inherent dorkiness in using VR. however unlike other tech use cases, this is one thats performed in the privacy of one's own home...so it's different than the Google Glasshole project, which was painfully public.

    AR is different. who knows what they have in the works..
    palomine
  • Reply 13 of 23
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,589member
    File this under no shit Sherlock.

    a slow news day so Apple leaks a few things to remind Wall Street they've got stuff in the pipeline.
    Is there much tech-wise that Apple isn't working on? They have their fingers in pretty much every hot-topic product category. Almost seems every big tech is copying every other big techs product ideas. Cars? Check. Wearables? Check. Payments? Check. TV? Check. Augmented Reality? Check. Gaming? Check. . .
  • Reply 14 of 23
    irelandireland Posts: 17,125member
    An interesting tidbit. Apple has 600 staff 'many hundreds' working on simply iPhone cameras.
    edited January 2016
  • Reply 15 of 23
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,360member
    Good! Apple should be working on so many different types of projects.

    In a year or two from now, I would like to be wearing Apple VR goggles on my head, and I will maybe be playing some cool, new 3d game, or perhaps having virtual sex with SIRI.

    Apple needs to be on top of things, and they need to be coming out with products that will just punch people in the face when they arrive. Products that people are not expecting from Apple, and products that have not been leaked.
  • Reply 16 of 23
    VR (unsurprisingly, like most things in the computer world) is 90% hype.  

    If you believe most of this stuff is "just around the corner" or on the verge of happening anytime soon ... well, bigger fool you!  

    VR headsets for VR games, yes.  Most of the rest of this stuff, no.  Not for many years at least.  
    There's a big difference between what's theoretically possible, what works in the lab, and what actually works.  What can exist in a shipping product and be actually helpful to people.  
    edited January 2016 entropys
  • Reply 17 of 23
    eightzero said:
    cali said:
    The other day I was in a Nintendo forum and the fans were talking about how Occulus/Samsung thingy/PS VR are fads that make people look like morons. They posted various photoshopped versions of this guy:

    I agreed and said the ugly helmets/goggles are interesting but too nerdy/clunky/unaccesible to be the future.

    I said if anyone gets it right it'll be Apple or MAYBE Nintendo. They'll be the first to make something usable that doesn't make you look like a geeky cyborg.
    When evaluating tech, how I look to someone else is absolutely last on the list of important things to me. Any idea how stupid people look when they are walking across a busy street staring into their iPhones? 
    Yes. They look like normal people (checking on some urgent stuffs maybe) 'cause they don't wear anything ridiculous on their faces.
    edited January 2016
  • Reply 18 of 23
    misamisa Posts: 827member
    I'm someone that's firmly in the "VR is going to fail (again)" camp, since I was around for the first round of it.

    AR, yes I see definite applications for it, but so far all we've seen are a few demos, first with Nokia with the N95, then Nintendo with the 3DS (both products I own) and largely people aren't interested in using it on these devices because of one practical problem... you have to hold the damn thing up to your line of sight, and that tends to erode usefulness of the GPS, and the accelerometers when you're constantly wobbling. Not to mention your hands get tired.

    VR, no I see this being a definite flop on the same level of 3DTV's. People don't see any value in a 3DTV any more than they see value in a 4K one, but the latter doesn't require additional hardware to actually use. There's just no 4K content. VR has a worse problem. If I put on a VR helmet, do I get 4K resolution to each eye and it looks as good as being there? Doubtful. All the first generation of this new generation VR kit is going to be terrible because they rely on the computer to have sufficient GPU power, and the vast majority of computers, including all of Apple's do not meet this requirement. (The requirement was a Geforce GTX 970 or AMD R9 290, both are an order of magnitude more than what comes in the 5K Retina iMac ( R9 M395 = GTX 950 or R9 285, at MOST)

    Everyone who thinks about buying "cheap" VR kit needs to actually look at the requirements to not induce motion sickness, and they are pretty strict
    https://developer.oculus.com/blog/optimizing-vr-graphics-with-late-latching/

    At best, we'll probably see Nintendo come out with the first compelling VR kit, but it will only be after Sony, Samsung and Oculus release their half-baked versions that require a powerful GPU. What I expect Apple to do is actually put the GPU into the headset, thus requiring a connection to thunderbolt (PCIe lanes.) This will result in a 1600$ headset that can be used with a much less expensive desktop. However since it's Apple, game support will be non-existant, and that's the largest problem here. If Apple came up with something and made it as compelling as the iPhone, then yes Apple will succeed. I just don't think it's going to happen because a VR Kit at the minimum only solves one problem: "How do get a 120 inch 3DTV into the space envelope of a 24 inch monitor space" , which is something that nobody actually needs. Like, think about it. If you put on a VR helmet, in theory you can have the theatrical experience of film without the super-expensive Dolby Atmos sound system and 48fps 8K IMAX screen that you just can't get at home. But these early VR kits aren't even 4K, they're half a HD screen sent to each eye (1080x1200 each.)

    So the most likely thing we will see in the near future is purpose-built VR systems much like purpose-built tablets. The CPU and GPU parts will be like those of a game console and not be upgradable. As much as I'd love to believe Sony might pull it off, the PS4 is not powerful enough to give a comfortable experience, so I'm expecting a compromise in lower resolution.


    gatorguy
  • Reply 19 of 23
    This may be why Apple is so hell bent to thin and lighten the iPhone, even at the expense of battery life. For many use cases, a $600 peripheral will be overkill; the phone itself will be the preferred display. It can snap into an inexpensive holder that fits your face.
  • Reply 20 of 23
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 3,597member
    Mr_Grey said:
    VR (unsurprisingly, like most things in the computer world) is 90% hype.  

    If you believe most of this stuff is "just around the corner" or on the verge of happening anytime soon ... well, bigger fool you!  

    VR headsets for VR games, yes.  Most of the rest of this stuff, no.  Not for many years at least.  
    There's a big difference between what's theoretically possible, what works in the lab, and what actually works.  What can exist in a shipping product and be actually helpful to people.  
    Very true.

    Contrary to what Microsoft believes we are not going to sit in offices wearing gloves and headsets, fondling the air. I'm sorry but that stuff is easier with a screen, keyboard and a mouse.

    And that's why I don't think Apple is working on a VR headset.
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