Is Apple Making a Virtual Reality Headset?

Source: USPTO.gov

Source: USPTO.gov

When it comes to entering new markets, Apple is rarely – if ever – accused of rushing in too soon. While many other tech companies race to bring new products with the latest technologies to market, Apple prefers to take a slow and thoughtful approach with an eye on a long-term goal. And just like the slow-moving tortoise that eventually overtook the fast-moving hare in Aesop’s Fables, Apple’s deliberate approach usually wins out in the end. From the digital media player to the mobile phone, Apple has an impressive history of taking over established markets to the detriment of its competitors. And while Apple’s rumored interest in the electric car market has recently garnered the most media attention, there are indications that the company may also be sniffing around an area much closer to its computer hardware and software roots.

According to 9to5Mac, the Cupertino-based company recently posted several new job listings for positions related to virtual reality hardware and software. While this is not the first time that evidence for Apple’s interest in virtual reality technology has been uncovered, the latest job listings suggest that the company is moving toward the development of some type of virtual reality hardware. In a job listing seen by 9to5Mac, Apple noted that it is seeking a “Sr. Display Systems Engineer” applicant who can:

-Specify and test novel display systems for virtual environments.
-Work with vendors to develop custom display solutions.
-Design and select appropriate hardware and software components to optimize fidelity in a variety of VR environments
-Develop software to support displaying rendered image sequences on the display hardware.
-Work closely with software, electrical and mechanical engineers during testing and integration.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Another job listing uncovered by 9to5Mac asked for a “Sr. Display Software Engineer” who has “Experience with motion capture systems” and can “own the display pipeline from rendered image sequences to display hardware.” Both job listings show that Apple is expanding its virtual reality development capabilities on both the software and the hardware sides of the technology. As noted by 9to5Mac, previous job listings posted by Apple were looking for candidates with experience on third-party virtual reality platforms such as Oculus Rift. However, the latest job listings suggest that Apple may be developing its own hardware.

The latest evidence of Apple’s increased interest in virtual reality technology comes on the heels of a patent the company was granted for a head-mounted display that resembles the Gear VR headset that Samsung created in a partnership with Oculus. Like the Gear VR, the device described in Apple’s patent uses a smartphone as its display. However, it’s unclear if Apple’s latest job listings are intended for the development of an iPhone-based gadget or for an entirely new dedicated virtual reality device.

In any case, Apple will be facing plenty of competitors in the virtual reality space besides Samsung and Oculus. Sony has plans showcase its Project Morpheus virtual reality headset that it announced last year at the upcoming Game Developers Conference (GDC), as reported by VRfocus. In the meantime, Google continues to expand the number of apps available for its D.I.Y Cardboard virtual reality headset that it unveiled at its I/O conference last year. However, while Apple may be lagging many other companies in bringing a virtual reality product to market, history tells us that this is when the company tends to pull off its greatest upsets.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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