Having just sent out invites for its upcoming September event late last week, it’s clear that Apple’s focus is currently on the next generation of iPhones, but we know that the company’s long-term goals include plenty of other fascinating products.
Countless leaks and reports have painted a relatively clear picture of the unannounced Apple TV subscription service, photos from civilians have uncovered the Apple car, and now, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, recent acquisitions and hirings point to Apple entering the increasingly crowded field of augmented reality as well.
“Based on recent acquisitions of augmented reality companies, hiring of a key Microsoft HoloLens employee, and conversations with industry contacts within the virtual and augmented reality spaces, we believe Apple has a team exploring the AR space,” Munster said in a note to his clients.
Although we’re typically skeptical of Munster’s assumptions, it would honestly be more surprising if Apple were to ignore the AR/VR field entirely. After the Oculus Rift stirred interest from consumers, both Microsoft and Sony announced their own headsets (HoloLens and Project Morpheus, respectively).
Apple hasn’t made anything official yet, but as Munster mentioned in his note, the iPhone maker acquired AR software company Metaio back in March. According to StreetInsider, Metaio owns 171 worldwide patents and pending applications along with 25 issued US patents. Apple also picked up PrimeSense in 2013, the 3D sensing company behind the original Kinect.
Another blatant sign of Apple’s interest in AR was the apparent poaching of Nick Thompson, previously the HoloLens Audio Hardware Engineering Lead for Microsoft. His LinkedIn profile now lists him as an Engineer at Apple.
Until one of these AR or VR headsets actually hits the market, we can only guess whether or not consumers will adopt the new technology as quickly as Oculus, Sony and Microsoft are hoping they will. Regardless, as the Apple Watch has proven, Apple is more than happy to sit back and observe until it determines the perfect moment to strike.