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Further fueling speculation about Apple’s entrance into the virtual and augmented reality space, a report published in The Financial Times suggests that the company’s latest new hire, Doug Bowman, could potentially help pave the way for Cupertino to make a splashing debut in the VR/AR scene.
During a five-year tenure as Director of Virginia Tech’s computer-human interaction program, Bowman was also a computer sciences research professor who focused his studies on “three-dimensional user interface design and the benefits of immersion in virtual environments.” The Financial Times reported that Apple hired Bowman in the midst of a temporary break from his work at the University.
Bowman is no stranger to the limelight, though, having acquired multiple top-tier recognitions in the field of VR technology during the years of his tenure. In November, he was one of the first researchers to receive a $100,000 grant from Microsoft for his work in applying the company’s Hololens headset to his study that sought to investigate the “collaborative analysis of large-scale mixed reality data.” According to the report, Bowman has also worked with Disney’s ‘Imagineering team’ on various projects.
In light of Apple’s secretive nature when it comes to, well, basically anything the company has up its sleeve, there’s no telling exactly what Bowman’s recent hiring entails for the future of its VR presence — aside, we assume, from the recent patent filings in the areas of mobile mapping solutions, virtual displays, and computer vision.
There are, however, the consortium of recent acquisitions that perhaps shed a light on the future of the company’s VR ambitions.
In November, for instance, Apple confirmed its acquisition of the real-time motion capture firm, FaceShift; the company whose technology was used to animate the characters in the latest “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” motion picture.
Additionally, the German augmented reality firm, Metaio, was acquired by Apple last May; the 2013 acquisition of the Israeli firm, PrimeSense — a company whose revered for its work on Microsoft’s first-generation Kinect device for Xbox 360 — and a firm known as Perceptio, whose work focuses on vision and machine learning, just about rounds out the company’s latest buying spree.
Analysts have speculated that, although Apple’s recent acquisitions have yet to blossom into a shipping product, pretty much all of them — coupled with the associated, behind-the-scenes research — suggest that the company is aggressively trying to push its way into the virtual and augmented reality market in 2016 and beyond.
On the whole, the VR/AR industry is getting super hot lately, with tech titans such as Microsoft, Sony, and Facebook, for instance, having already announced consumer hardware that’s either already shipping, or expected to go on sale in the not too distant future. And honestly, just taking into consideration the current industry trends, and especially Apple’s massive Research & Development capacity, it’s only reasonable to assume the company won’t be left in the lurch.
Learn More: Apple May Go Virtual Reality Crazy in 2016