So apparently Apple is really committed to releasing an augmented reality headset in the not-too-distant future. To accelerate its efforts, Apple has gone out and acquired Vrvana, a startup from Montreal, Canada, that ran an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign for its Totem headset. That piece of hardware never came to market, but the engineers behind it will not have a chance to contribute to something potentially bigger.
Citing two unnamed sources, TechCrunch says Apple paid $30 million for Vrvana. The site also claims that when it reached out to Apple, it refused to comment, but also did not deny the report. It certainly makes sense to us—$30 million is a drop in the bucket for Apple, a company with market cap of nearly $900 billion and plenty of cash on hand. And with virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality trending in a big way, this is the kind of buy that presents a low risk and potentially high reward.
How exactly Apple will utilize Vrvana's talents remains to be seen. The company was working on a VR headset, but Apple CEO Tim Cook said last year that AR is a better bet.
"There's virtual reality and there's augmented reality—both of these are incredibly interesting. But my own view is that augmented reality is the larger of the two, probably by far," Cook said during an interview with ABC News' Good Morning America.
More recently, it was reported that Apple is developing a standalone AR headset, which it is hoping to produce by next year, followed by a release in 2020. Unlike the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, the headset will not require a connection to a computer. it will also be different from Samsung's Gear VR, which is powered by a smartphone. Apple's headset will have integrated hardware, including its own embedded display, a custom system-on-chip (SoC), and a custom operating system.
While not as powerful as the Rift or Vive, standalone headsets could help bring VR and AR experiences to a wider audience. Apple is not the only company taking that view, either. HTC recently announced a standalone headset of its own, the Vive Focus, which features inside-out 6-degrees-of-freedom (6DoF) "world-scale" tracking, powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC. The caveat is that it's only available in China, at least for now.