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Apple's virtual reality (VR) rumours and images

Lewis Painter | Feb. 17, 2016
Apple CEO Tim Cook says VR isn't a niche area, and has made a number of high-profile, VR-related hires and acquisitions

There are multiple rumours that Apple is developing a virtual reality (VR), or augmented reality (AR) device, going back well over a year. Is Apple making a VR headset, and what would an Apple VR headset look like? If the Apple VR device is real, when can we expect an Apple virtual reality device to be announced? In this feature, we are going to look at all the latest Apple VR rumours, patents and leaked images - including the remarks that Tim Cook made at Apple's quarterly earnings conference call in early 2016. 

There's no smoke without fire, and Apple has filed patents and hired VR experts. So Apple is clearly investigating, and building prototype VR devices. And with Google, Microsoft and even Facebook also making VR and AR devices, it seems like VR is a party Apple can't afford to miss.

Update 17/02/2016: Updated to include comments made by Director of Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab Jeremy Bailenson regarding Apple visiting his VR lab. 

Apple VR: What is virtual and augmented reality?

Virtual Reality headset


First, a quick refresher on terms. Virtual reality devices are headsets worn like glasses, but inside a VR headset are screens that display a 3D image. The VR headset tracks your head movement, and the 3D image moves according. This makes it appear as if you are wholly inside a 3D 'virtual' world.

Virtual reality hit the headlines in the 1990s when video games companies like Sega and Nintendo attempted to create and sell VR products to the public. The technology wasn't ready then, but a more recent attempt called The Rift developed by Oculus VR in 2012 was developed with modern 3D technology and development has been wowing people ever since. Eventually, FaceBook bought Oculus VR in 2014 for over $2b, and the VR headset is now available to pre-order with shipping commencing in March.

Augmented reality, on the other hand, is where the glasses are see-through and you can still see the world around you, but an image is displayed in front of your eyes. Augmented reality also hit the headlines in recent years, first thanks to Google Glass (which displays 2D images) and more recently with an impressive demonstration by Microsoft for an upcoming product it is calling Hololens that embeds 3D images in the world around you.

Microsoft Hololens Augmented Reality

Meanwhile, Google has invested $500m in a company called Magic Leap, who is also working on a Hololens-style device that superimposes 3D computer-generated imagery into the real world.


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