Let’s Roll Back the Clock on Apple Acquisitions
First off, here is the Apple acquisitions timeline:
- 2013, Apple acquired PrimeSense for $345 million. This was the company the made the Xbox Kinect technology
- 2015, Apple acquired Metaio, a German Augmented Reality company known for the Ferrari AR showroom and the Ikea AR catalogs, as well as some interesting AR experiences augmenting old buildings on top of current ones
- 2015, Apple acquired Faceshift, a motion-capture technology (along the lines of Leap Motion)
- 2016, Apple acquired Flyby Media, they develop next-generation consumer mobile social applications that connect the physical world with digital content
These are all interesting acquisitions which on the face of it don’t really add up to mean anything. So that obviously lends the question as to what Apple is up to.
Next Apple Has Done What They Always Do, Hire the Best
Back in 2014, Apple had started hiring for application engineers with experience in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality along with 3D graphics experience. Since then, Apple has made a number of relatively high-profile hires for its virtual reality project, including Microsoft’s Nick Thompson, an engineer that worked on the HoloLens audio hardware for three years. Apple also hired Bennett Wilburn, another Microsoft employee, who focused on “machine learning technology for human activity recognition” with his previous experience including the likes of Lytro and Huawei.
Along with ex-Microsoft employees, Apple has also hired Doug Bowman, a man considered to be a leader in the field of 3D user interfaces. His previous experience includes working as a computer science professor at Virginia Tech, as well as being the head of the school’s Center for Human-Computer Interaction. Lastly, we have Graham Myhre, a man that previously worked at Lytro developing specialised lenses and sensors, but is now “investigating new display and optical technologies for future generations of Apple products” – at least that’s what his LinkedIn says anyway.
As well as this, a recent report from the Financial Times claims that Apple has actually successfully developed a virtual reality prototype, and is actively testing it behind closed doors – no doubt by the spree of VR-related hires at Apple over the past few months. Though a prototype is floating around, the FT source doesn’t go into detail about what we can expect from Apple’s seemingly upcoming headset.
So what is Apple doing at Stanford University VR Labs Suddenly?
According to a report, Apple hadn’t been even interested in the Stanford University Labs. Then they suddenly turned up several times in a period of a few months. This was first reported in the Wall Street Journal which includes comments from Jeremy Bailenson, the Director of the labs. So why has Apple suddenly been so interested in the labs? The Virtual Human Interaction Lab based at Stanford University is the first place that businesses will go before developing a virtual reality headset – Mark Zuckerburg, CEO of Facebook even went along shortly before it acquired Oculus.
Speaking at the event, Bailenson remarked: “Apple hasn’t come to my lab in 13 years – except they’ve come three times in the last three months. They come and they don’t say a word, but there’s a data point for you.” As ever, Apple is keeping tight-lipped on the subject but this, along with recent comments made by Tim Cook claiming that VR isn’t a niche and that it has interesting applications suggests that an Apple-branded VR headset is in the works, although it could still be a way away.
Icing on the Cake, Tim Cook, CEO Speaks About Augmented Reality
On several occasions, Tim Cook has remarked that the AR and VR space are interesting. He made a remark on the January earnings call only stating “In terms of VR, I don’t think it’s a niche. It’s really cool and has some interesting applications.”
However in a more recent series of interviews, the Apple boss has been more specific stating a Washington Post interview “I think AR is extremely interesting and sort of a core technology… So yes, it’s something we’re doing a lot of things on behind that curtain we talked about.”
So what do you think? Is Apple working on another “secret” project much like their secret self-driving car. Share your thoughts and opinions with us.