Apple iPhone VR headset discovered in recent patent

Samsung Gear VR
Apple has Samsung in its sights

Virtual reality products continue to make headlines, but it's anyone's guess who will eventually dominate the market - but armed with a stack of new patents, Apple is showing a renewed interest in this space.

Patently Apple reported Tuesday that Apple has been granted another 41 patents published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and one of them in particular appears targeted directly at virtual reality (VR) rivals Google and Samsung.

First filed in 2008 and credited to inventor Quin Hoellwarth, patent number 8,957,835 describes a "video headset frame" which works in tandem with an iPhone or iPod to supply video and audio content.

It's probably not much of a coincidence this headset sounds a lot like the Samsung Gear VR, which uses a compatible Galaxy smartphone attached to the front and beams virtual reality entertainment to the wearer.

Apple VR patent 2015

iPhone-powered VR? (credit: Patently Apple)

Line of sight

In addition to just broadcasting iOS-based picture and sound to the headset, Apple's patent also describes a picture-in-picture (PIP) feature, which can be used to keep an eye on the real world around you while wearing the device.

Judging from the patent details, Apple plans to incorporate some amount of tactile physical controls on the headset itself, but is also leaving the door open for other options, such as Siri voice control.

The headset patent also elaborates on "advanced haptics" located within the earplugs, which can be used to enhance sound effects and music from the movie content being viewed.

Apple's video headset ambitions date back to at least 2008, but the iPhone maker has been relatively quite of late on VR-related patents, with the last batch having turned up nearly four years ago - and recent job postings related to the technology having been mysteriously scrubbed from existence.