Apple reportedly acquires Canadian AR headset startup Vrvana for $30M

Posted:
in General Discussion edited November 2017
Amid rumors claiming Apple is working on a branded augmented reality headset, a report on Tuesday claims the tech giant has bolstered its AR hardware team with the purchase Canadian startup Vrvana.




Citing sources familiar with the matter, TechCrunch reports Apple paid about $30 million for Vrvana. Apple declined to comment on the report, but a number of Vrvana employees have relocated from Montreal to Apple facilities in California.

Though it did not offer its boilerplate confirmation, Apple did not refute the acquisition claims.

Vrvana is best known for the Totem, an as-yet-unreleased hybrid headset that mixes augmented reality and virtual reality technologies into a single "extended reality" device. Touted on Vrvana's website, which is still active at the time of this writing, Totem integrates specialized internal hardware to not only track head position, but also the location of a user's hands to facilitate the manipulation of virtual objects.

Specifically, Totem relies on an array of cameras to enable 6DoF tracking and capture live views of the outside world for display on OLED panels located in front of a user's eyes. The setup allows for head tracking and positioning without the usual external equipment seen in other solutions like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Further, infrared cameras assist Totem in tracking user hands.

As noted by TechCrunch, Vrvana's technology allows for rich, mixed reality applications similar to those Apple is only now embracing with ARKit. Unlike competing solutions like Microsoft's HoloLens kit, which relies on transparent glass to overlay computer graphics, Totem's fusion of real-time video offers users "seamless blend" transitions between AR and VR environments. Though latency can be an issue with such configurations, Vrvana CEO Bertrand Nepveu this summer said the company had working prototypes that boasted lag times of only 3 milliseconds, the report said.

If Apple did purchase Vrvana, the move is the clearest indication yet that the company is working to bring its own AR headset hardware to market.

Earlier this month, reports claimed Apple is barreling full speed ahead on a standalone AR headset code-named "T288." Unlike AR and VR products that rely on smartphones or other devices, Apple's version is said to boast its own display and processor, and runs a specialized platform referenced internally as "rOS," or "reality operating system."

Work on the headset is said to be scattered across Apple's Cupertino and Sunnyvale campuses, with the company aiming for an aggressive 2020 launch.

As can be expected, Apple has not commented on rumors surrounding a branded AR headset, but the company is sinking significant assets into augmented reality technology. For example, the launch of iOS 11 marked the introduction of ARKit, a framework built to assist developers in creating cutting edge AR apps that work seamlessly with Apple's latest iPhone hardware.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has on numerous occasions touted AR as a transformational technology that has the potential to dramatically shift the consumer landscape. In an interview last month, Cook was asked about the prospects of an Apple AR headset.

"There are rumors and stuff about companies working on those -- we obviously don't talk about what we're working on, but today I can tell you the technology itself doesn't exist to do that in a quality way," Cook said. "The display technology required, as well as putting enough stuff around your face -- there's huge challenges with that."

While mere speculation, a Vrvana acquisition could go a long way in overcoming some of those hurdles.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    Sure seems like Apple is working on something.

    i can certainly see where a device like this would be better than a phone.

    dies get to be having to hold the phone in front of you for a long period of time.
  • Reply 2 of 22
    I suspect Apple is trying to figure out how to bake this hardware into today’s type of Eyewear. Imaging wearing regular glasses and seeing both physical and virtual and augmented.  


  • Reply 3 of 22
    While everyone else is chasing flexible screens or another gimmick, Apple will allow you to see a screen on anything while sharing it with whomever you choose.
    This is right up Apple’s alley, requiring extremely tight integration between software and hardware.  Delivering a flawless experience will cement Apple as the only real profit generating company in AR.

    Good luck Samsung, even with Oculus hand outs you will not succeed in breaking this market.  This requires scales of economy and AI chips that you simply can’t copy.

    Just like kids today don’t know a world without the internet, kids of tomorrow will only know a digital overlay to reality.
    MacProwatto_cobrapatchythepirate
  • Reply 4 of 22
    LordeHawk said:
    While everyone else is chasing flexible screens or another gimmick, Apple will allow you to see a screen on anything while sharing it with whomever you choose.
    This is right up Apple’s alley, requiring extremely tight integration between software and hardware.  Delivering a flawless experience will cement Apple as the only real profit generating company in AR.

    Good luck Samsung, even with Oculus hand outs you will not succeed in breaking this market.  This requires scales of economy and AI chips that you simply can’t copy.

    Just like kids today don’t know a world without the internet, kids of tomorrow will only know a digital overlay to reality.
    Do you work for Apple PR or something?
    repressthis
  • Reply 5 of 22
    LordeHawk said:
    While everyone else is chasing flexible screens or another gimmick, Apple will allow you to see a screen on anything while sharing it with whomever you choose.
    This is right up Apple’s alley, requiring extremely tight integration between software and hardware.  Delivering a flawless experience will cement Apple as the only real profit generating company in AR.

    Good luck Samsung, even with Oculus hand outs you will not succeed in breaking this market.  This requires scales of economy and AI chips that you simply can’t copy.

    Just like kids today don’t know a world without the internet, kids of tomorrow will only know a digital overlay to reality.
    Do you work for Apple PR or something?
    You know official comments can’t be made.....
    My company interfaces with Apple as a vendor, so not PR, as if that’s really needed.

    Anyone with half an imagination can see where AI and wearables will collide.  From that, you can deduce the technological innovations necessary to reach such a consumer product.  Apple is the only company in the world that has almost every checkbox completed for the theoretical iSight...   Like that?
    Apple Watch: full architecture on single chip, water resistance, micro cellular, Siri watch face(see below)
    iPhone Camera: real-time image analysis
    AR kit: AR assets and motion
    faceID: depth mapping and eye tracking
    A11: on device AI processing and composting
    Siri: control & assistant features (Siri watch face becomes Siri smart interfaces)
    Airpods: Seamless wireless connection and communication between separate ARglasses, image sharing.

    Apple just has to wait out the miniaturization timeline while their scales of economy and tech improve.  Batteries will most likely be the hardest thing to tackle as cameras and processing are rather taxing.

    radarthekatMacProbadmonkpatchythepirate
  • Reply 6 of 22
    "lag times of only 3 milliseconds" did you mean --> latency of only 3 milliseconds?
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 7 of 22
    LordeHawk said:
    Just like kids today don’t know a world without the internet, kids of tomorrow will only know a digital overlay to reality.
    How horrifically depressing and dystopian.
    macplusplusfotoformat
  • Reply 8 of 22
    LordeHawk said:
    Just like kids today don’t know a world without the internet, kids of tomorrow will only know a digital overlay to reality.
    How horrifically depressing and dystopian.
    True, horrifying to think of people locking themselves into a chosen reality, not a true reality.
    Cant help but think about about some movies like Cloud Atlas where people no longer care about things unless it directly affects them.  Oh wait, we’re already there.
    mac_dogRayz2016
  • Reply 9 of 22
    danvmdanvm Posts: 707member
    LordeHawk said:
    While everyone else is chasing flexible screens or another gimmick, Apple will allow you to see a screen on anything while sharing it with whomever you choose.
    This is right up Apple’s alley, requiring extremely tight integration between software and hardware.  Delivering a flawless experience will cement Apple as the only real profit generating company in AR.

    Good luck Samsung, even with Oculus hand outs you will not succeed in breaking this market.  This requires scales of economy and AI chips that you simply can’t copy.

    Just like kids today don’t know a world without the internet, kids of tomorrow will only know a digital overlay to reality.
    I don't think Samsung/Oculus are the target, but MS, since they already have an AR device, Hololens, in the market, with the second gen maybe available in 2019.
    edited November 2017
  • Reply 10 of 22
    LordeHawk said:
    Just like kids today don’t know a world without the internet, kids of tomorrow will only know a digital overlay to reality.
    How horrifically depressing and dystopian.
    Every hovel dweller will live in the illusion that they are all famous, well-liked and live in a mansion... all fantasies fed by virtual worlds, virtual interactions, and simulated dwellings.

    On the other hand... this is what people want and I'm glad I'm an Apple stockholder. 
    edited November 2017
  • Reply 11 of 22
    I'd love to see Apple take a stab at the most under appreciated virtual reality environment, namely lucid dreaming. At the moment I have to use a pretty shitty and uncomfortable device called the  rem dreamer. I see there is something under development called the lucid dreamer but at the moment it appears to be vapour ware although it does look promising not having to detect your eye movement. But after my bad experience with the TextBlade which I had to cancel after being fucked around for two years after it was supposed to be delivered, I'm not holding my breath.

    Imagine if Apple used their smarts to build a lucid dreaming machine that leveraged all their sensors and machine learning that could interact with you during a dream. A world would open with literally no limitations. The laws of physics are meaningless in the dream world, you can quite literally do anything you like. This would not even be difficult for Apple to implement.



    edited November 2017 watto_cobra
    rem.jpg 85.5K
  • Reply 12 of 22
    When the iPad was first announced I thought it was cool but didn’t know why I would want one.  My wife preordered the one and it was delivered on launch day.  Since then she replaced it with an Air 2, I got a mini and then a 12.9” Pro and she also has a work issued 9.7” Pro.

    I think it may be the same with AR/VR headsets/glasses.  At the moment, I don’t see a compelling enough reason to get them. If Apple ever releases that type of product I’ll pay attention but I’ll still need to be convinced.

    Meanwhile, I have an iPhone X and am still waiting for developers to deliver all the amazing AR apps that people were convinced would come after iOS 11 was released. Most of what’s in the App Store is (to me) just a curiosity and not even close to anything I would feel I can’t live without.

    A real question: has anyone used an AR app that they were blown away by or that exceeded their expectations?  Please tell me what app it was and why.  I’m seriously interested as there has been a lot of hype around AR in iOS 11 but so far the offerings are pretty weak.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 22
    When the iPad was first announced I thought it was cool but didn’t know why I would want one.  My wife preordered the one and it was delivered on launch day.  Since then she replaced it with an Air 2, I got a mini and then a 12.9” Pro and she also has a work issued 9.7” Pro.

    I think it may be the same with AR/VR headsets/glasses.  At the moment, I don’t see a compelling enough reason to get them. If Apple ever releases that type of product I’ll pay attention but I’ll still need to be convinced.

    Meanwhile, I have an iPhone X and am still waiting for developers to deliver all the amazing AR apps that people were convinced would come after iOS 11 was released. Most of what’s in the App Store is (to me) just a curiosity and not even close to anything I would feel I can’t live without.

    A real question: has anyone used an AR app that they were blown away by or that exceeded their expectations?  Please tell me what app it was and why.  I’m seriously interested as there has been a lot of hype around AR in iOS 11 but so far the offerings are pretty weak.
    There is nothing I've been blown away by, but I'm moving and have been using this AR app called Housecraft. The app has helped me out a lot trying to figure out how I'm going to place furniture in rooms. IKEA has a similar app. I'm sure there will be some cool AR apps in the future, but right now, I prefer VR. 
  • Reply 14 of 22
    When the iPad was first announced I thought it was cool but didn’t know why I would want one.  My wife preordered the one and it was delivered on launch day.  Since then she replaced it with an Air 2, I got a mini and then a 12.9” Pro and she also has a work issued 9.7” Pro.

    I think it may be the same with AR/VR headsets/glasses.  At the moment, I don’t see a compelling enough reason to get them. If Apple ever releases that type of product I’ll pay attention but I’ll still need to be convinced.

    Meanwhile, I have an iPhone X and am still waiting for developers to deliver all the amazing AR apps that people were convinced would come after iOS 11 was released. Most of what’s in the App Store is (to me) just a curiosity and not even close to anything I would feel I can’t live without.

    A real question: has anyone used an AR app that they were blown away by or that exceeded their expectations?  Please tell me what app it was and why.  I’m seriously interested as there has been a lot of hype around AR in iOS 11 but so far the offerings are pretty weak.
    There is nothing I've been blown away by, but I'm moving and have been using this AR app called Housecraft. The app has helped me out a lot trying to figure out how I'm going to place furniture in rooms. IKEA has a similar app. I'm sure there will be some cool AR apps in the future, but right now, I prefer VR. 
    Yes, to me the only “good” AR apps tend to be utilities. Just by their nature utilities likely won’t be used all that much (compared to other apps). 

    We’re thinking of building a new house, would HouseCraft be if any use during the layout and design phase or is it more for furniture placement?
  • Reply 15 of 22
    I'd love to see Apple take a stab at the most under appreciated virtual reality environment, namely lucid dreaming. At the moment I have to use a pretty shitty and uncomfortable device called the  rem dreamer. I see there is something under development called the lucid dreamer but at the moment it appears to be vapour ware although it does look promising not having to detect your eye movement. But after my bad experience with the TextBlade which I had to cancel after being fucked around for two years after it was supposed to be delivered, I'm not holding my breath.

    Imagine if Apple used their smarts to build a lucid dreaming machine that leveraged all their sensors and machine learning that could interact with you during a dream. A world would open with literally no limitations. The laws of physics are meaningless in the dream world, you can quite literally do anything you like. This would not even be difficult for Apple to implement.



    Personally, I don’t want Leo DiCaprio trying to break into my dreams to steal my secrets.
    ocelotwreakSpamSandwich
  • Reply 16 of 22
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,556member
    I'd love to see Apple take a stab at the most under appreciated virtual reality environment, namely lucid dreaming. At the moment I have to use a pretty shitty and uncomfortable device called the  rem dreamer. I see there is something under development called the lucid dreamer but at the moment it appears to be vapour ware although it does look promising not having to detect your eye movement. But after my bad experience with the TextBlade which I had to cancel after being fucked around for two years after it was supposed to be delivered, I'm not holding my breath.

    Imagine if Apple used their smarts to build a lucid dreaming machine that leveraged all their sensors and machine learning that could interact with you during a dream. A world would open with literally no limitations. The laws of physics are meaningless in the dream world, you can quite literally do anything you like. This would not even be difficult for Apple to implement.



    Heh. 

    I collaborated on a novel based on that idea. 

    Quickly turned into a horror story. 
  • Reply 17 of 22
    Camera based headset... I don't think it's a good way to go... It might feel like a good enough start in the AR world, but as soon as you head into challenging lighting situations, or wanna walk around, drive a car, or talk to people around you, there is no way they can maintain the quality the human eyes can do in low light, nor make eye contact, nor "feel" the world around you. I think it has to be layered on top of the real reality with some sort of transparent solution/ or clever use of micro projections, or light field tech, for truly becoming something you'd like to wear for more than a dedicated session. Also, in my opinion, it needs to be able to just shut down, and go into see-through mode, and then power up real quick when you need it. When a camera/ display based headset runs out of battery it will just be black.. That's dangerous.
  • Reply 18 of 22
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,905member
    Their web states that Vrvana is Windows 10 only ...  so I suspect if the rumor is true the web site will be down any moment. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 22
    LordeHawk said:
    While everyone else is chasing flexible screens or another gimmick, Apple will allow you to see a screen on anything while sharing it with whomever you choose.
    This is right up Apple’s alley, requiring extremely tight integration between software and hardware.  Delivering a flawless experience will cement Apple as the only real profit generating company in AR.

    Good luck Samsung, even with Oculus hand outs you will not succeed in breaking this market.  This requires scales of economy and AI chips that you simply can’t copy.

    Just like kids today don’t know a world without the internet, kids of tomorrow will only know a digital overlay to reality.
    Apple will just have to buy a lot of the parts from Samsung. LOL
  • Reply 20 of 22
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    CobraGuy said:
    LordeHawk said:
    While everyone else is chasing flexible screens or another gimmick, Apple will allow you to see a screen on anything while sharing it with whomever you choose.
    This is right up Apple’s alley, requiring extremely tight integration between software and hardware.  Delivering a flawless experience will cement Apple as the only real profit generating company in AR.

    Good luck Samsung, even with Oculus hand outs you will not succeed in breaking this market.  This requires scales of economy and AI chips that you simply can’t copy.

    Just like kids today don’t know a world without the internet, kids of tomorrow will only know a digital overlay to reality.
    Apple will just have to buy a lot of the parts from Samsung. LOL
    And make a better product than them from their own parts... Ahaha, yeah. Will be fun..
    watto_cobra
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