Apple is believed to have built a secret team of augmented and virtual reality (VR) experts and staff after it recently hired Doug Bowman, a leading VR researcher.
The company expects the team to work on prototypes of VR headsets that may pose competition to Facebook’s Oculus Rift or Microsoft’s HoloLens soon as company looks at new sources to keep up growth other than its iPhones lineup.
According to a report quoting sources in Financial Times , the secret research unit has staff from a series of carefully targeted acquisition and poached employees from rival companies who are working on developing the next generation VR technologies including Microsoft and camera start-up Lytro.
Apple’s most recent acquisition was Flyby Media, a startup focused on augmented reality in mobile devices letting users see the world around them in a new way. Flyby’s team had worked closely with Google in developing software for its 3D positioning technology Project Tango. The Cupertino tech major has been known to be building prototypes of VR headsets for several months.
Recently, Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has said that the VR technology has great appeal among masses. “It is really cool and has some interesting applications,” Cook said hinting that Apple was trying to join the virtual and augmented reality race in the Silicon Valley which has already seen players like Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Samsung come on-board.
Last year, Apple filed several patents for smartphone-based VR headsers and acquired several companies like Emotient, which reads facial emotions, earlier last month. It had also bought over Meraio and Faceshift last year.
However, the company has come out with no products even after filing the patents and making the acquisitions. The hiring of Bowman is expected to be a move to build a headset of its own to new kinds of automotive controls and displays. The company has declined to comment about its VR operations.
Also, Apple has been long been experimenting with VR right from the days of Steve Jobs. In mid-2000s, a small team had created prototypes and filed for patents only to be told that the technology was immature.