There’s no denying that Apple has an interest in augmented reality technology, but will it ever release dedicated hardware for its software? It’s latest acquisition certainly suggests that’s a possibility.
According to TechCrunch (opens in new tab), Apple has acquired a startup called VRvana which has crowdfunded (though not yet shipped) a camera-based headset which mixes virtual and augmented reality experiences.
Called the Totem, the headset promises a “seamless blend” of augmented and virtual worlds by capturing the the outside world on its outward facing cameras and displaying them on the inward facing OLED display.
This is different and slightly better than the methods of Microsoft's HoloLens and Windows' Mixed Reality headsets as it means the Totem is able to overlay completely opaque images and animations over the real world rather than ghost-like projections.
While camera-based mixed reality solutions have previously been criticized for featuring a nausea-inducing lag, the Totem almost eliminates the problem with a lag that’s been cut to only 3ms.
The headset also features ‘inside-out’ tracking which means that cameras are used to track the user’s position and surroundings while Infrared detects hand movements.
Apple is yet to confirm whether or not the deal has taken place but plans for freshly acquired companies isn’t something Apple is particularly known for sharing.
If Apple has acquired VRvana and its headset technology, it would certainly stand it in good stead for the self-contained AR headset it’s rumored to be developing for a 2020 release.
Though Tim Cook has recently said (opens in new tab) that display quality is a barrier to good AR hardware, VRvana’s lag solution on its OLED display could be the ticket. No lag, seamless transition between AR and VR, no cords and no need for controllers? That sounds like the kind of sleek solution Apple would be looking for.
Even if this acquisition has taken place, however, it’s just another of many companies in the AR and VR industry that Apple has collected over the years.