Enlarge /. HTC Vive Pro, a headset that Apple supports with the latest versions of MacOS.
Apple confirmed to Bloomberg that it has taken over NextVR, a company that primarily produces sports-related content and experiences for virtual reality. Southern California-based NextVR also holds dozens of patents that may be useful to Apple.
The takeover was rumored for the first time in the past month, but today is confirmation that it has taken place. No price has been announced, but reports from last month suggest the acquisition will be around $ 100 million. According to today's Bloomberg report, NextVR discontinued operations as a standalone unit last week, and the NextVR website is now just a simple landing page, indicating that new things will come later.
NextVR has had content deals with sports leagues like the NBA and media like Fox Sports for some time. Apple may have acquired NextVR to produce similar content, but it is equally likely that one or more of NextVR's Cupertino patents may be of interest. For example, last month 9to5Mac found that NextVR holds patents for upscaling video streams, presumably in a mixed reality way.
Apple has apparently hardly touched VR so far. It announced nominal VR support in macOS a few years ago and made up part of its marketing efforts for the iMac Pro. It supported HTC Vive headsets (which can be used directly in Final Cut Pro, among others) and again received support from Valve's SteamVR platform. We asked VR game development studio Survios about their experience in developing VR titles for the Mac. Early work seemed promising, but it was only that: early.
Apple hasn't announced any new developments in VR since, and SteamVR recently discontinued support for macOS.
However, Apple has provided significant resources for augmented reality (AR), and many underlying technology principles are shared between VR and AR. They are often grouped together under the same "XR" roof, and developers and other technologists who work in one sometimes work in the other.
Apple has extensively hired AR engineers, built expensive AR components into its mobile devices and, in recent years, has collaborated with its developer community to publicly develop a set of tools called ARKit. It has been repeatedly reported that the company is working on an AR headset, and CEO Tim Cook has made statements that he believes AR is an integral part of the company's future.
Therefore, the acquisition of NextVR can be about AR needs as well as VR. But we don't really know. VR could still be on Apple's radar.