There was plenty of talk about virtual reality in 2015, but there is no doubt that 2016 will be the year we see a big push in consumer virtual reality and augmented reality technologies. Samsung was the first to release a consumer virtual reality headset and other companies like Oculus, HTC and Sony all have their own virtual reality products primed to launch in 2016. The question remains if and when Apple will jump on board.
Many analysts have predicted that Apple will be very aggressive in this area during 2016 through both acquisitions and Apple’s own development. These predictions have quite a bit of merit to them considering Apple has filed a number of patents over the last few years regarding a virtual/augmented reality headset.
In fact, some inside sources have discovered that Apple heavily debated between creating a virtual reality product and a watch, and as history has shown they chose the watch. However, it seems that virtual reality may be the next big product category that Apple gets into.
Another indication that Apple is heading this direction is its acquisition of augmented reality company Metaio in May of last year. It is still unclear exactly what Apple will do with Metaio’s technology.
Some have speculated that the acquisition was specifically for Apple’s ambition to introduce augmented reality into it’s own Maps app on iPhone and iPad, but since virtual/augmented reality seems to be the next big product category it would make sense for Apple to utilize this technology in a future device. Also, don’t be surprised to see Apple scoop up a few more virtual and augmented reality companies this year.
It is important, however, to keep in mind Apple’s normal strategy with their product releases. Apple almost always waits to enter a new product category in order to both polish its own product and correct some mistakes made by its competitors.Take the Apple Watch for example.
Samsung, who is normally on the cutting edge of new product categories, had released multiple sup-par smartwatches by the time Apple announced theirs, but when the Apple Watch launched it dominated the market and ate up almost all of Samsung’s market share in the category.
This goes to show that Apple’s strategy of polishing the functionality and design of their products in favor of being first to market has paid big dividends in the past and I imagine this will be the same approach the company will take with its virtual reality product.
Although the timing is unclear, you can be sure that Apple has been testing a virtual reality headset. Previous patents have indicated that Apple’s headset would work by sliding an iPhone into the headset and using its display to create the virtual reality experience.
Using a technology called stereoscopic imaging, the iPhone display would split into two images, one for the left eye and one for the right eye, in order to create an illusion of depth and deliver an immersive 3D experience.
Like with many of Apple’s patents, you never know which ideas and prototypes will make it to market, but considering the massive push into consumer virtual and augmented reality, it seems like an obvious next step for Apple.