Many virtual reality (VR) fans have wondered if iPhone and iPad creator Apple might get involved with VR in the future. Last year the company posted a job listing for an App Engineer to work with ‘VR systems’, but no official word on any such project has been revealed. A patent issued today, however, reveals that the company has at least worked on a head-mounted display (HMD) of its own, utilising its iconic smartphone series in much the same that that Samsung’s Gear VR HMD works with the Galaxy Note 4 handset.
The patent, uncovered by Patently Apple, details a HMD that links to a ‘portable electronic device’ which is pictured as an iPhone or iPod Touch. The device slots into the HMD to display side-by-side content in 3D, just as can be seen with Gear VR or any number of other smartphone-based HMDs. Crucially, the device appears to be operated using voice controls as well as physical ones. There are also images of ear buds that use advanced haptics to create immersive sound effects for watching movies and more.
It’s interesting to note that the patent was first filed on 30th September 2008, six years before Gear VR would be introduced and four years before the Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign for the Oculus Rift. Apple seems to have been considering this for a long time, then. Third-party companies such as Pin? VR have already revealed their own HMDs that run exclusively with the latest iPhones, but Apple’s own interest in the area is undeniably exciting. With the company planning to launch the Apple Watch in the near future, VR fans might not hear anything on a possible official VR HMD from the company for some time.
VRFocus will continue to follow Apple’s work in VR closely, reporting back with any further updates from the company.