Apple VR – A Look Back and Where It’s Headed

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Apple VR

When I was eight, I went to my uncle’s house to see a peculiar computing object. It was a VCR connected with a headset device of sorts. When I wore it on my eyes, I slipped into a new world where I was driving a car—or maybe it was a race. I had it on my eyes for what seemed like a minute. I asked dad what it was. He said it was “virtual reality.”

At the very same time in the offices of Apple Computers, there was excitement. The buzz was around its newest technology: Quicktime VR. Strangely enough, this was a time when John Sculley (and later Mark Spindley), and not Steve Jobs, served as the CEO of the company.

Yes, that’s true. Apple was working on VR before it became fashionable. Heck, the company initially started its work in 1991.

Here is the launch video of QTVR project.

QTVR saw a few good days—and I may cover it in the future—but when Steve Jobs returned, the project was shelved.

Now, in the current time, we are hearing that Apple is preparing a VR/AR headset of its own. By the sound of it, the device would be magnificent with 8K (yes, 8k!) display without being tethered to a smartphone or a computer. It will come with its own operating system too.

However, the question pops up!

Why does Apple want VR now?

For starters, virtual reality is really showing a lot of business potential. Google, Facebook, and Sony have invested their resources in the development of this industry. According to a forecast report by IDC, the worldwide spending on VR and AR related technologies can touch $17.8 billion by the end of this year. If it does, that would be a 91% year-on-year increase.

And, then we have this graph from Statista.

Yup, consumers have spent $6.36 billion on VR gear in 2020! Now, it would be silly if Apple won’t tap this lucrative market. 

However, the purist will say: “This is not what Steve Jobs wanted.”

Really?! Then, why did he allow his inventors to file patents for VR headset as early as 2007? Here’s the proof straight from the records of U.S. Patent & Trade Office.

Filed under Patent No. US 7,595,933 B2 where a binocular-like wired device is described in detail that could transmit virtual reality videos using an iPod.

To further advance their AR-VR ambitions, the company hired a Senior Prototype Engineer named Richard W. DeVaul who wrote a dissertation titled The Memory Glasses.

In his academic work, DeVaul proposes to create a “context-aware memory aid” wearable that provides information to user without the need of any interaction. This all sounds like “augmented reality.”

Unfortunately, he did not stick around for too long and left for Google in 2011. While there is no mention of his work at Apple on the internet, there are plenty of patents that the company successfully secured over the last decade.

The most notable one is Patent No. US 8,605,008 B1 that details the construction and functioning of a goggle system for “providing a personal media experience” with a digital processing system to display 3D objects by adjusting left- and right-side images.

While the above-mentioned patent was abandoned, similar device patents have been obtained by Apple over the last 5 years.

This goes to show that even though Apple has not released a commercial VR headset or product, the Cupertino-based tech giant is busy in creating the perfect experience for its consumers.

What will you watch on Apple VR?

Like it or not, Apple knows the art of creating an ecosystem. It knows how to deliver a utilitarian experience. The iPhone came with its own operating system (OS) and apps, Apple Watch too, and so did Apple TV.

If the Apple VR hits the market, the tech giant will provide the full effect. Since there is rumor of a separate OS, the device will be introduced with dedicated apps. Plus, many of these apps are already there (or getting developed) due to the inclusion of ARKit in iOS 11 and the VR-rendering support inside Metal 2.

Then, there is a lot of video content available inside Apple Music and Apple TV for viewers’ pleasure.

Apple is also known for creating product-related content strategies. At the time of launch for Apple Music Radio, renowned radio DJ Zane Lowe was roped in from BBC Radio to run the editorial side of things. Recently, Carpool Karaoke with James Corbyn was aired on Apple Music as a separate show.

For its VR headset project, the company will do the same. There is always the rumor of buying Netflix. If it becomes generous, it might let its users watch YouTube too.

Isn’t Apple late to the VR party?

Honestly speaking, I have always observed that Apple is not a disruptive company. It’s a “reactive” company. While many tech companies focus on solutions, it prefers to deliver an experience.

Yes, it is late to the party. But, you must have heard about being “fashionably late.” Apple knows how to make an entrance and then work the room. Remember how there were touchscreen phones before the iPhone, but none were smart. Before Apple Watch, there were smartwatches, but none were useful. 

Before HomePod, there were smart speakers, but none were easy-to-configure.

Therefore, whenever Apple chooses to release its VR-AR headset, it would be an experience worth having.

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