Since the 1980’s, Apple has been recognized as one of the most creative and influential technology companies on earth. From their famous advertising and consumer-centric interface design to the charm of their charismatic leader Steve Jobs, people have been drawn to the tech giant.
Although they have broadened their product offering from computers to personal devices, one area of tech that Apple is yet to fully explore is Virtual Reality.
With competitors integrating VR into their product range at an impressive rate, it’s only a matter of time before Apple enters the arena – but what should we expect?
The current virtual reality landscape is dominated by two players offering solutions on different ends of the spectrum.
Korean tech giant Samsung has released several iterations of their Gear VR product. Designed to house an Android phone, this face mask allows consumers to simply slide their phone into a headset and enjoy immersive VR modeled on the approach taken in the creation of the industry benchmark Oculus Rift.
The other, somewhat unexpected player in the VR space is Google. Having entered the world of real-time augmented reality with the ill-fated Google Glass, the Google team have taken a leap forward with the release of Google Cardboard.
Unlike Samsung, their approach seems to be that VR should be as affordable and accessible as possible. Although newer iterations are more comfortable, the idea remains to get VR into every home – courtesy of Google.
Opportunity for Apple
Apple has always insisted on two product qualities: simplicity and beautiful design.
They have also managed to integrate their products into the very way we live our lives. From the iPhone to Apple TV, making a commitment to Apple allows consumers to create an Internet of Things, albeit a very small ecosystem, within their home and office.
The launch of the Apple Watch also shows an interest in the potential of wearable tech and perhaps even haptics, should the company venture into VR.
One area of potential expansion for Apple to conquer VR would be with accessories that expand the use of existing devices.
Companies like Bodyguardz have already created advanced additions to the Apple device range, and although these are focused on protection, it seems to suggest that augmenting existing Apple products is viable as a business opportunity.
Could it be that the next Apple event sees the release of a VR iPhone attachment, or Apple Watch projector?
There are even rumors that the California-based company is working on VR glasses that will render Google’s first attempt pointless.
Speculating on Apple’s existing product range does suggest that should they enter the world of virtual reality, it will be with an elegant, understated piece of technology that augments their existing products.
Take Apple TV as an example. The ability to stream and store programs and films was unprecedented for a computer company, but it has been achieved. And with the ability to drastically improve device performance through software updates, it isn’t impossible that Apple TV could be coded download and show content in virtual reality.
Similarly, the iPhone already has all the capability needed for an immersive VR experience – ultra clear display, tilt and pan viewing, and wireless sound output. All that’s missing is a way to block out the outside world, and perhaps the release of a minimal headpiece is all that it takes.
Whatever the solution is, it’s unlikely that a company known for refined, minimal products is going to release a clunky product.
Since VR was first imagined in science fiction novels, it has been viewed as an immersive haptic experience that merges a headset with full-body control in a static environment.
Products like the Teslasuit, which amplifies the experience possible through existing VR headsets, is trying to make that vision a reality. Gaming companies have also jumped at the chance to transport their audience to a reality that can be felt and engaged with through some kind of mechanized suit.
It is unlikely that Apple would pursue this kind of virtual reality output until it is clearly viable from a commercial perspective. The reasoning is simple: they do not release anything that will not drive the global population into a buying frenzy. Perhaps in a few years, the haptic option will be sophisticated enough for Apple to take a bite.
The world of virtual reality is the next horizon for tech giants and it’s obvious that Apple will soon release something spectacular, but for now, we can only guess at exactly what that product could be.