After many discussions about AR as the next computer platform, Apple may have more interest in virtual reality than previously predicted.
According to a April 9to5mac report, Apple today confirmed the takeover of VR broadcasting startup NextVR to Bloomberg. A note on the NextVR website now shows that the company is “moving in a new direction”.
At first glance, this acquisition seems a bit strange for Apple. Apple has brought the mobile AR at full speed, largely avoided public activities or interest in the VR world and left this domain entirely in the hands of Facebook. At the end of last year, information reported that Apple had informed employees that a device may be shipped in 2022 that combines AR and VR functions in a form factor similar to Oculus Quest. Working with this acquisition suggests that Apple may have deeper plans for VR than previously stated.
In a few years of iOS presence, it's unclear whether Apple has really gained a lot of great insight into what good AR content looks like. Therefore, for a Gen-One AR device, it makes sense in a couple of years to bring out a “mixed reality” headset and drive developer innovation in AR content further while using a broader base of VR content, that satisfy users.
9to5mac pinned the NextVR The deal price is around $ 100 million, a price that is anything but exciting for NextVR investors, who have pumped a total of $ 115 million into the company. At the same time, given the broader shape of the VR content market, it would be a surprisingly robust exit for the company at the moment. If the deal really ended there, it would be a lot of money for Apple to pay for something for which they have no sensible plans. One of NextVR's greatest strengths was the partnerships they had built with sports leagues over the years. I suspect Apple, it is not so important to keep these partnerships active when they are not selling optimized devices, but NextVR technology. A stack for general VR content delivery could be a picture of Apple content's future maneuvering to draw.
Since Apple has built organizational strength in content like Apple TV +, it is more practical to use such an acquisition to get a head start in expanding its content advertising network to include new devices in the pipeline.
The main problem with all of this is that VR-optimized content cannot be translated very well into augmented reality. The NextVR solution uses the entire field of view of existing VR headsets and puts users in a completely 3D environment. There are no technical reasons for AR headset users not to experience this content the same way, but there are no field of view AR headsets to use this type of content, and progress here has been fairly slow. Existing AR devices may not be optimized for VR and vice versa, but Apple may already be organizing on the assumption that this will not be the case for long.
For years, Facebook has struggled to build a meaningful network of virtual reality content to power its Oculus hardware. Resolving the chicken-and-egg problem of not having enough content for users, but not enough users to recruit content developers, led Facebook to one-sidedly fund VR development for several years. Apple could expect a similar fate in AR.
As Magic Leap gets increasingly out of the picture and Apple finally launches an augmented reality device, they may end up in a dead sector where little outside development is organically planned. Apple has long benefited from its developer relationships to spark interest in a new platform early on. However, since ARKit's consumer interest has so far largely failed to grow, it is expected that many developers will adopt a wait-and-see approach to ambitious AR release, which severely affects Apple's ability to summarize AR launch content.
Apple's biggest mistake with ARKit so far has been the inability to highlight the platform's potential on mobile devices. With multiple iterations of their AR development platform, the company was more conservative than ever when presenting first-party use cases. Her most famous unveiling was a downloadable 3D measurement app. In the meantime, only a few hits have occurred that use the spatial platform in a unique way.
Virtual reality may be a safe place for Apple to invest in the meantime. Good virtual reality content is generally easier to create, less interaction with the real world, and developers have more control over the experience. Using NextVR technology, Apple could have access to a smooth pipeline for more VR content that can be used on mixed reality devices and later on more technologically advanced AR glasses. Tim Cook and many others in Apple's leadership have expressed their enthusiasm for the potential of AR. However, as developers continue to struggle to find this potential, the attractiveness of virtual reality may become increasingly important for this long-term strategy.