What it is: Apple recently acquired a Canadian augmented reality company called Vrvana.
Apple has been acquiring multiple augmented reality companies and their latest acquisition is Vrvana, a startup that was working on a headset. What’s unique about this headset was that it displayed cameras on the outside to create a more accurate image of the real world. Curiously, Vrvana didn’t even have any products to sell but had simply demonstrated their ideas.
Obviously Apple wouldn’t have acquired this company unless they planned to go into the market for augmented reality headsets. As you can see from the picture above, the current Vrvana headset is bulky and cumbersome, which means nobody in their right mind will want to wear one for an extended period of time. It’s logical to believe that Apple hopes to shrink this technology down to ordinary eyeglass size and weight so they’ll feel just as natural as regular eyeglasses.
While various virtual reality headset companies promote games as a use for headsets, Vrvana is unique in that they were promoting their headsets for enterprise use. The enterprise market is far more lucrative and larger than the gaming market and less fickle too. The question is how will the enterprise market use augmented reality glasses?
One clue is what the company stated on their promotional materials: “Totem’s hand tracking and inside-out positional tracking empowers your workforce to manipulate virtual objects with their hands wherever they please.”
Why would companies find this useful and which companies would find this useful? This might be extremely useful for distance surgery where a doctor can operate on a patient remotely and use hand gestures to control physical equipment in another part of the world. This could also be useful for drone and robot operators as well such as someone controlling a robot exploring a leak in a radioactive nuclear power plant reactor.
Controlling virtual objects with your hands isn’t practical today just as fax machines weren’t practical in the days before telephones. Virtual reality headsets need further refining along with other technology to make it feasible, but the future is there and Apple is embracing it ahead of time.
Whatever happens from this Vrvana acquisition, you can be certain it will bear fruit years from now. Virtual and augmented reality is here to stay. The only question is how will it appear and what will people use it for.