Whether you realize it or not yet, virtual reality is going to play a huge part of the future of gaming, entertainment, enterprise, education and more. It would be silly for any company to sit on the sidelines, which is why Google, Facebook, HTC, Samsung, Sony, Microsoft and others are all working diligently to deliver virtual and augmented reality experiences. Apple has been oddly quiet, but a new report from the Financial Times says it has a “secret research unit” with “hundreds of staff” dedicated to the project.
So while it may seem like Apple hasn’t done much of anything, it actually has, we just don’t know about it. Financial Times said that Apple has “prototypes of headsets that could one day rival Facebook’s Oculus Rift or Microsoft’s Hololens,” and discusses Apple’s interest in both virtual reality (similar to the Oculus Rift) and augmented reality (HoloLens). Apple hired some of the staff working on those projects through recent acquisitions of FlyBy, PrimeSense, Faceshift and Metaio, the news outlet said, and they come in addition to high-profile hires like Doug Bowman, which the Financial Times also revealed earlier this month.
Apple has plenty of patents detailing research on the virtual reality front, including one that appears to offer a Gear VR-like experience for the iPhone. Those patents have always suggested that Apple had some sort of plans on the backburner, and Wall Street analysts have also added to the speculation, with one recently declaring that Apple will get publicly aggressive with VR as soon as this year.
The Financial Times said it doesn’t have any information on when Apple will push out its virtual reality headset or what sort of technology it will support – VR or AR or both, somehow – and warned that “Apple might again decide not to release a headset.” That could be dangerous if Apple wants to take part in what will almost certainly be a massive industry.