Virtual reality devices like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift have proven to be exceptionally popular. Now, it appears Apple is working on a VR device of its own. Here are some of the things you need to know about the top secret project.
It’s Been in Development for Years
Apple has been filing patents related to virtual reality for over a decade, including patents for VR and stereoscopic imaging devices.
In fact, the reason we know (or believe we know) that Apple is working on a VR device is because the company recently filed a patent for a Google Cardboard-like device, where your iPhone would slide into the front of the glasses to be used as a VR device. That patent was entitled “Head-mounted display apparatus for retaining a portable electronic device with display.” Catchy.
It Will Likely Be Similar to the Gear VR and Google Cardboard
Both Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR use your existing phone to create a VR display. The Gear VR is priced at around $100, while the Cardboard is even cheaper. That brings virtual reality into the hands of the average person – you don’t have to pay $500+ for the Oculus or Vive (or buy the thousands of dollars of extra hardware).
Apple Has a Patent for a Remote Controlled Virtual Reality Device
Apple filed a patent for a virtual reality device with an attached remote control, which means you could interact with the VR headset without touching the screen. The remote, in the initial patent, looks very similar to the standard Apple remote (like the one used for your Apple TV).
We Can Virtually Guarantee It Will Only Work with Apple Products
Apple hardware has never got along with other hardware devices. We would bet good money that the same will be true for the upcoming Apple VR hardware.
We expect that Apple’s VR system will only work with Mac OS, iOS, or TVOS. That being said, it would be silly for Apple to make a VR headset that only worked on Apple computers. We expect there to be PC support as well, although a mobile-optimized VR system would be unlikely to support Android.
Don’t Expect Apple VR Anytime Soon
If Apple does release a VR device, it’s not going to be out for a little while. All we know about Apple’s VR system is that they’re working on something. No prototypes have been leaked and most of the details so far come from patent applications by Apple.
Realistically, the earliest Apple could release a VR system would be 2017.
It Might Be a Flop
Currently, VR devices cater to the high-end PC market, most of which aren’t fans of Apple. You need some serious PC hardware to run the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
VR is such a non-event among Apple fans that Oculus and Vive don’t even offer software for Apple computers. Oculus’s founder and Rift creator Palmer Luckey tweeted last year that he would only release Oculus support on Mac “post-decent Apple hardware release, whenever that is.” They’re developing Linux support before Apple support.
Ultimately, there are millions of iPhone users out there who can’t experience VR because they’re using iPhones. Apple is trying to change that.