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Apple’s VR ambitions just took a major step forward – here’s why

Apple has apparently bought augmented reality firm Vrvana for $30 million, in a move that would signal Cupertino is ramping up its AR efforts.

A brace of sources tipped off TechCrunch to the deal, which noted that the acquisition will help get Apple ready to ship an AR headset in 2020.

Apple has reportedly declined to comment on the acquisition but didn’t deny it has happened; this isn’t surprising as Apple is tight-lipped about pretty much everything it does.

Vrvana is best known for its Totem headset, which superimposed virtual items over the real world with sensors to track a wearer’s movements to allow them to manipulate the virtual objects in a form of ‘mixed reality’ as seen with Microsoft’s HoloLens.

However, despite excitement building around the Totem it was never released. It is likely its tech will be rolled into whatever AR headset Apple may be working on, likely bringing in some of Cupertino’s refined design skills to the rather clunky designs of AR and VR headsets currently out in the wild.

Vrvana had been working with the likes of Audi, Tesla, and Valve, so whether that work will continue under Apple banner will have to be seen.

Carmakers like Audi have been flirting with AR tech to produce semi-virtual car showrooms over the past couple of years, but it’s interesting to see games giant Valve listed as a customer or partner of Vrvana. Perhaps with Apple’s help we could see high-quality augmented reality games make their debut, after all a couple of years back Valve was rumoured to be having talks with Apple.

Of course, this is all speculation for the time being, as Apple hasn’t revealed any hints to what its strategy may be for AR hardware. But its been pushing its ARKit developer tools and the A11 Bionic chip, found in the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, as slice of silicon that’s particularly suitable for powering AR apps.

We’ll likely need to wait until Apple’s next big showcase, likely WWDC in 2018, to get an idea of how it plans to advance its AR work.

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