Virtual reality is one of the big developments in recent years, with much hype surrounding Facebook’s soon-to-be-released Oculus Rift. Alongside this, other companies including Google, Sony and HTC developing their own VR offerings, while Apple seems conspicuously absent. This could be set to change soon, with their hiring of Doug Bowman, a leading expert in VR and 3D interface design.
Up until his recent sabbatical to join Apple, Bowman had held the post of Director of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction at Virginia Tech for around five years. Bowman’s research focus has been “three-dimensional user interface design and the benefits of immersion in virtual environments,” with him authoring a book on the subject. He also has strong credentials in the VR field, being part of the development team of the Virginia Tech Cube, a 50 x 40-foot box used as both a theater and an environment for studying VR. Apple isn’t the only company to recognise Bowman’s work either, with Microsoft providing him with a $100,000 research grant and two Hololens devices in order to study “Collaborative analysis of large-scale mixed reality data.”
This is just the most recent of a series of VR related acquisitions made by Apple. The tech giant recently San-Diego startup Emotient as well as German AR startup Metaio last year and Kinect co-creators PrimeSense back in 2013. These acquisitions and more show that Apple already has a good grasp on technologies that could be put to use in VR and AR development, as well as the field experts who developed them.
With Goldman Sachs predicting that VR could be worth $80bn by 2025, it is unlikely that Apple will want to miss out on this opportunity. Though while many of the other companies that are currently developing their own VR offerings are open about them, Apple has maintained tight secrecy on the subject. I have no doubt that if they are developing a VR device like the Oculus Rift or an AR device similar to the Hololens, Apple would be able to make a strong entry into the market and could just be a product to look out for in the future.