Reportedly, Apple gathered a team of virtual and augmented reality experts and works on prototypes for headsets to get into the hip VR/AR market. To accelerate its business venture Apple recently acquired numerous companies, such as Flyby Media just in January, and recruited experts like e.g. Doug Bowman, a former professor of Computer Science and the Director of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction at Virginia Tech.
Although Apple did not comment on the reports, it is assumed that some prototypes are already produced and that Apple is trying to find new growth opportunities since its typical cash cows lose traction despite record results. Just end of January, Apple announced record sales of 75.9 billion US dollars before tax that had been around 1.3 billion US dollars higher than the previous year's quarterly sales.
But although Apple was able to report a significant increase of 56% in sales of its flagship product, the iPhone, sales stagnated compared to the same period last year and Apple's iPads and Macs declined to some extent significantly.
Since Samsung, Apple's fiercest competitor in the smartphone market, announced as well disappointing sales figures last year, it is not surprising that Apple is increasingly looking to other technology areas to keep its capacity for innovation - outside of smartphone and tablet - though the company has already to make up leeway.
In spite of earlier research under the auspices of Steve Jobs, virtual and augmented reality technology has been ignored for a long time. Apple's chief design officer, Sir Jonathan Ive, who sketched the Apple Watch, said once in an interview with the magazine New Yorker in early 2015, it was evident to him that the face “was the wrong place” for technology, when he saw Google Glass. While Cook said, reportedly, “We always thought that glasses were not a smart move, from a point of view that people would not really want to wear them. They were intrusive, instead of pushing technology to the background, as we’ve always believed”, concluding that they always thought it would flop.
This could turn out to have been a mistake now, as this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) showed where the VR / AR market was extremely active. Many companies presented their new models of VR glasses there, including Oculus with the latest model of the "Rift" series, Samsung with “Gear” and Sony with the model "Project Morpheus". While these devices are based on the approach to suppress the real world with the placement of smart glasses, other devices such as HTC Vive and Microsoft HoloLens focus more on Augmented Reality (AV) by superimposing the real and the artificial world.
Accordingly, Apple’s interest in the new medium quickened and Cook’s recent statement proves that, saying that VR technology is cool with some interesting applications.
Well, history is full of laggards that help an innovation to its big breakthrough by not having to overcome the initial problems - although it doesn’t go with the self-perception of the trendsetter Apple. Still, we can expect that the company will most likely manage to enrich the VR technology as a whole.
By Daniela La Marca