Rumours of an Apple designed virtual reality headset have been doing the rounds recently, but what are they based on? How would they compare to other headsets like the Samsung Gear VR and HTC Vive? Read on to find out why we think that the Gear VR and HTC Vive will always be better than an Apple VR headset.
Back in December 2013, a new Apple patent surfaced describing a “goggle system for providing a personal media viewing experience to a user”. That sounds suspiciously like a VR headset, doesn’t it? Especially when it also states that “the goggle system may include data processing circuitry operative to adjust left and right images generated by the optical components to display 3-D media”. Very VR-esque.
But what will the Apple VR headset look like? The patent describes a potential design that includes an outer cover, mid-frame, optical components for generating the media display and a lens on which the media displayed is provided to the user. Looks wise, the patent states that it may resemble ski or motorcycle goggles, just to give you some idea.
The most interesting part of this story is that the patent was filed way back in May 2008, almost 7 years ago. Is Apple still working on the VR headset or have they scrapped the idea? Apple, like many other tech companies, tend to patent a range of ideas that may not ever see the light of day, so this may be another example of that.
If they have scrapped the idea, why? One reason might be competition; there’s a sea of VR headsets currently on the market, including the Samsung Gear VR and HTC Vive, with the latter becoming available by the end of 2015.
Let’s take the Samsung Gear VR as an example. The Gear VR and Gear VR Innovator Edition are both potentially compatible with more phones than Apple’s VR headset - if it used a similar system to how the Gear VR works anyway. The Gear VR requires the Galaxy Note 4, S6 or S6 Edge (depending on the headset model) to use as the high quality display of the headset, whilst running dedicated VR software on the phone.
Samsung has also partnered with Oculus to power the headset. This means that all the technology under the surface of the Gear VR is Oculus’s handiwork. It also features the Oculus VR Store, where you can find a various VR games and experiences for users to enjoy. While the Oculus VR Store was originally lacking in content, the selection is now growing beyond basic demos.
However, it’s the HTC Vive is causing the biggest stir at the moment, and is probably the device that would kill of an Apple VR headset idea. What’s so special about the HTC Vive?
With the Gear VR & Oculus Rift, you can only look around the virtual environment – you still have to use a controller to move and generally play the game. That’s not the case with the Vive, as it comes with two base stations that are placed in opposite corners of the room, as well as a gyrosensor, accelerometer, and laser position sensors built into the headset. That combination allows the headset to track your physical location and translate that into movement on the game, accurate to 1/10th of a degree.
See also: Gear VR vs Oculus Rift (DK2) comparison
That’s not all, though. It runs at 90fps and uses a 1200x1080 display for each eye, which means there’s no motion sickness – an issue that many VR headset manufacturers struggle to fix. It comes with two specially designed, hand held controllers that allows you to directly interact with objects in the virtual environment. The positions of the two controllers are tracked in space, giving developers the opportunity to simulate a wide range of interactions.
Oh, and HTC have paired with Valve, creators of award winning games Portal and Half-Life and creators of Steam, the hugely popular PC gaming platform. This will likely translate into an array of VR games at your fingertips, possibly more than any other VR headset manufacturers can offer.
That is full immersion and a great VR experience.
Apple can’t compete with the partnerships between Oculus & Samsung and HTC & Valve, simply because it’ll have to develop everything from scratch – the technology, the software and most importantly, the VR content. Sure, Apple would have an API that developers would use to create Apple friendly VR content, but it’s a dangerous gamble when many developers are already creating content for other, more popular alternatives.