With reports and rumors that Apple already has a team of “hundreds” working on virtual and augmented reality projects, a Seeking Alpha article predicts that Apple is working on an iPhone-based VR system and a VR headset akin to Samsung’s Gear VR.
The article — which says the Cupertino, California-based company is “well ahead of its competitors” in VR/AR projects — says a smartphone-based VR system is viable for Apple due to its loyal user base and a plethora of users who use iPhones for various purposes, such as watching streaming videos and availing healthcare and fitness services. For people to whom gaming isn't the first priority, a smartphone-based VR system would be more appealing, instead of the VR systems that Sony and HTC are going to launch, says Seeking Alpha.
There may be something to the prediction. Last year Apple was granted 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 would allow you to connect an iPhone 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.
Another patent filing indicates that Apple has considered a 3D imaging and display system that would work with Macsand iOS devices, and which would scan and display simultaneously. Yet another patent filing describes a device for “projecting a source image in a head-mounted display apparatus for a user” to deliver “an enhanced viewing experience.
What’s more, Apple has been scooping up VR/AR related companies, such as Emollient, a startup that uses artificial-intelligence technology to read people’s emotions by analyzing facial expressions. In November 2015 the company acquired Faceshift, which makes a facial motion capture system.
In May 2015 Apple purchased Metaio, a company makes Metaio Creator, an AR authoring tool. In 2013, Apple bought PrimeSense, an Israeli maker of chips that enable three-dimensional (3D) machine vision.