Apple has hired Doug Bowman, an expert in virtual reality/augmented reality, according to the Financial Times. The Virginia Tech computer science professor was listed among grant winners for HoloLens research projects and he specializes in creating 3D user interfaces, fueling speculation that Apple is working on virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR) projects.
Microsoft HoloLens is described as “the first fully untethered, holographic computer, enabling high-definition holograms to integrate with your world.” Microsoft has announced that a HoloLens developer kit will arrive in the first quarter of 2016 for $3,000.
HoloLens is a smart glasses device to accompany Windows Holographic, a “mixed” reality computing platform for creating applications that incorporate live presentation of physical real-world elements with virtual elements (which Microsoft calls holograms.
Apple has been hiring engineers to work in the VR field. Apple has also obtained a patent for VR goggles that would use an iPhone as the display unit. The invention is for a "head-mounted display apparatus for retaining a portable electronic device with display." It seems to involve connecting an iPhone (or perhaps an iPod touch) to a GoPro-ish head mount for viewing media on a private display.
The invention would allow users to couple and decouple a portable electronic device with a separate head-mounted device. The iDevice could be physically coupled to the head-mounted device such that the device can be worn on the user's head. The iDevice may be operatively coupled to the head-mounted device such that the device and head mounted device can communicate and operate with one another. Each device "may be allowed to extend its features and/or services to the other device for the purpose of enhancing, increasing and/or eliminating redundant functions between the head-mounted device and the portable electronic device.”
Apple says that the advantage of the invention is that, in addition to being unwieldy, the coupled system" often utilizes redundant features, which are not necessary when using the devices together." The patent filing doesn't mention virtual reality or 3D applications, but that would seem to be a logical extension of such an invention.