Apple VR headset clued by new iPhone patent

Apple has been awarded a patent for a virtual reality headset that works by docking an iPhone to act as the unit’s display.

It’s much the same idea as the Samsung Gear VR – and most other VR headsets, it must be noted – whereby users’ handsets do the brunt of the work to reduce headset costs.

The US Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple Patent No. 8957835 today (via AppleInsider), which suggests that the company has been planning the concept for a while.

The patent, named ‘Head-Mounted Display Apparatuse for Retaining a Portable Electronic Device with Display’, details how an iPhone would ‘act as the primary display screen’ of the headset.

It also ‘temporarily or integrates both mechanically and electronically a head-mounted device with a  portable electronic device.’

This suggests a connected Gear VR-style offering, rather than the more benign Google Cardboard headset that doesn’t actually connect to, or interact with, the smartphone.

The patent also explains how the headset would include a remote control designed to be used in the hand, which would allow control input for the headset.

Samsung’s Gear VR instead offers a touch-panel and an array of buttons on the side of the headset, as well as making use of Android controllers connected to the device.

Related: Best Google Cardboard Apps 2015

Of course, Apple might only have filed this as a safety net for possible future projects, and may never actually release such a project.

Virtual reality is still a nascent industry, so Apple could be looking to maintain a spectator position until it decides whether an investment into an actual retail unit is worthwhile, if ever.