After many discussions on AR as the next computing platform, Apple may have more interest in virtual reality than they previously anticipated.
Following an April report by 9to5mac, Apple confirmed today Bloomberg the acquisition of the VR broadcast start-up NextVR. A note on NextVR’s website now points out that society “is moving in a new direction”.
At first glance, this acquisition seems a bit strange for Apple. Apple has pushed at full speed on mobile AR, largely avoiding public activity or interest in the world of virtual reality, leaving this domain entirely in the hands of Facebook. At the end of last year, The Information reported that Apple had informed its employees that it could ship in 2022 a device combining AR and VR capabilities in a format similar to that of Oculus Quest. That, combined with this acquisition, suggests that Apple may have deeper plans for VR than they previously reported.
After a few years of presence on iOS, it is not clear if Apple has really made many major achievements on what good AR content looks like. Therefore, the release of a “mixed reality” headset in a few years and the pursuit of developer innovation on AR content while relying on a broader base of VR content satisfying users is quite logic for a gen-one AR device.
9to5mac has set the price of the NextVR transaction at around $ 100 million, a price that is far from an exciting end for NextVR investors who have collectively injected $ 115 million into the company, but which would at the same time constitute a Surprisingly robust output for the company given the wider form of the VR Content Market at the moment. If this is really where the deal ended up, it would be a lot of money for Apple to pay for something they don’t have meaningful plans for. One of NextVR’s greatest strengths is the partnerships they have forged over the years with the sports leagues. I guess Apple doesn’t care too much about keeping these partnerships active when they’re not selling devices optimized for them, but NextVR’s technology stack for delivering VR content as a whole could paint a picture of future maneuvers for Apple content.
As Apple has built an organizational weight in the content space around efforts like Apple TV +, it is more likely that they want to use an acquisition like this to get a head start in expanding their network. content to new devices in their pipeline.
The main problem with all of this is that optimized VR content doesn’t translate into augmented reality very well. NextVR’s solution exploits the full field of vision of existing VR headsets, placing users in a fully 3D environment. There is no technical reason why AR helmet users cannot ultimately experience this content in the same way, but there are no AR headsets with the field of vision to take advantage of this type of content. , and progress here has been quite slow. Existing AR devices may not be optimized for virtual reality and vice versa, but Apple may already be organizing on the assumption that this will not be the case for long.
Facebook has struggled for years to build a meaningful network of virtual reality content to power its Oculus hardware. Resolving the chicken and egg problem of lack of content for users but not enough users to woo content developers ultimately led to Facebook unilaterally funding VR development for several years. Apple could expect a similar fate in AR.
With Magic Leap increasingly out of the picture, when Apple finally launches an augmented reality device, they could find themselves in a dead sector with little organic business development in the works. Apple has long thrived on its developer relationships to spark early interest in a new platform, but the interest of ARKit consumers has so far failed to grow, so it is fair to say expect many developers to have a wait-and-see approach to any ambitious AR. release, leaving a heavy burden on Apple’s ability to grab AR launch content together.
Apple’s biggest failure so far with ARKit has been its own inability to highlight the platform’s potential on mobile devices. Through several iterations of its AR development platform, the company has been more conservative than ever in presenting proprietary use cases. Their most prominent revelation was a downloadable 3D measurement app. Meanwhile, few hits have emerged that exploit only the space platform.
Virtual reality can be a safer place for Apple to invest in the meantime. Good VR content is generally easier to create, relies less on interaction with the real world, and developers have more end-to-end control over experiences. Leveraging NextVR’s technology could give Apple seamless access to wider VR content that could be enjoyed on a “mixed reality” device and more technologically advanced AR glasses. Tim Cook and many other Apple executives have expressed enthusiasm for the potential of augmented reality, but as developers continue to struggle to find that potential, the appeal of virtual reality is becoming increasingly important to this strategy. long-term.