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Apple VR Implications – Why Its a Very Big Deal

Reports indicate that Apple has been thinking about virtual reality (Apple VR) as early as 2006, when it developed a video headset display for which it was granted a patent in 2009. But despite having had interest in VR for 10 years, the iPhone maker is yet to release any VR-related product. Products like Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Google’s Cardboard and Microsoft’s HoloLens have quickly taken off, welcomed by a market eager for new technology.

But still, Apple has hung back perhaps waiting to see how well VR does and figure out how best to make an entry that overshadows all other competing products. In recent years, there has been an uptick in rumors that Apple is pouring more resources into VR/AR (augmented reality) developments. Major hires have been made, with reports suggesting that hundreds of people are involved in the Apple VR project.

Given the rapidly heating VR market, Apple would do well to quicken its development and introduce a product sooner rather than later. In the meantime, what we can do is ponder the huge implications of Apple’s development of VR technology.

Apple’s Ecosystem

It is no secret that the Cupertino resident has something of an obsession with its ecosystem. It is fiercely protective about it, creating more enticing products to ensure people remain inside. With the ecosystem’s main darling, the iPhone, seemingly starting to taper out in terms of sales, the company is looking frantically for something new to keep the ecosystem running.

Apple’s movement towards newer and bigger technologies such as electric cars has got us excited about the new possibilities being breathed into the ecosystem; how everything could work together to create amazing experiences. This is why the prospect of Apple VR is creating such a buzz.

VR, as a technology, has the ability to be used in numerous applications from healthcare to entertainment. When Apple plugs VR into its ecosystem, the new technology would affect the entire ecosystem. We would experience the iPhone differently. Apple Watch would come with more powerful and immersive features. Apple TV will stop being just a fringe Apple product and turn into an immersive entertainment center.

The upcoming Apple Car could create a whole new driving experience beyond even what Tesla is able to offer. Apple music entertainment options, especially when it comes to videos, will get far more interesting. It could also spur Apple to expand its ecosystem into areas like healthcare, gaming, education and advertising.

Apple getting into VR is a big deal. While it tends to lag behind its competitors when it comes to new technologies, it later comes out with products that outshine them all. We do not know of a release date for Apple VR; it could be next year or in 5 years time. What we are sure of is that, as long as the company sticks to its innovative streak, the impact will be huge. For a more closer and detailed look at what could happen, we go through various potential implications highlighted in the two previous paragraphs.

1. Apple VR for a better iPhone

For years, the iPhone has been Apple’s bread and butter. It has been a central part of its brand. Even with falling sales, its importance in the ecosystem is likely to remain high in the coming years. One problem that Apple has faced is how to keep making the iPhone better.

Let’s face it; these incremental changes coming with newer versions of iPhone are no longer cutting it. Apple, and other Smartphone makers need big things to get people buying new Smartphones after just a year or two with their current ones. For Apple, that big thing could be VR.

A combination of virtual reality and augmented reality could take the iPhone experience up to a new level. Users will experience apps like maps and Apple Music differently. The iPhone will become a much more powerful tool, able to accomplish far more than its current capabilities.

Already, there are several VR headsets, such as Google Cardboard, that work with your Smartphone to create an impressive VR experience. You can watch YouTube videos in VR, experience immersive New York Times journalism and watch VR films.

While it is highly likely that the Apple VR headset will have the ability to operate as a standalone device, Apple could enable connectivity with your iPhone for added capabilities.

2. Apple Car

Apple is rumored to be working on an electric car with an expected release date of 2019 or 2020. With Tesla already dominating the market with its electric cars, the Apple Car has to be really good to appeal to the market. One way that Apple could seek a competitive edge over Elon Musk is by incorporating virtual and augmented reality into the car.

There are many ways VR and AR could be tied into the driving experience. An AR-incorporated dashboard could show contextual information as you drive including directions and nearby places. Or they could mix AR and VR to create a holographic navigation aid. A good example of such a system already in use is Navion. This system displays real time information directly on your windshield, including a green arrow that tells you what direction to take.

In the future when driverless cars become a common reality, more immersive VR experiences that do not risk driving safety could be incorporated.

3. Apple Watch

Apple Watch apple vrApple is gearing toward a second generation of its relatively successful Smartwatch, set to be launched towards the end of 2016. While we do not expect any VR capabilities in Apple Watch 2, it is an area to keep your eyes on as Apple turns its attention towards virtual reality.

Apple VR could make for a much more improved Smartwatch experience, equipping the wearable with amazing features and capabilities. The possibilities range from a hologram-capable smartwatch reminiscent of Sci-Fi movies to one that is loaded with VR apps and can connect to a VR headset.

Some analysts speculate that Apple could make more subtle moves towards VR through the products they already have, instead of bursting in with a standalone product. One possibility is preparing the Apple Watch 2 for VR by equipping it with more sensors. So watch out for that when the launch takes place later in the year.

For Apple Watch to work with VR, there are a lot of developments it too has to undergo. For example, it needs to shed its dependence on the iPhone. By being able to function as a standalone product, it could prove much more helpful with an Apple VR headset.

4. Advertising

Google is the undisputed king of digital advertising, making billions of dollars from the trade every year. No one who talks about Apple mentions them getting into the advertising business, either now or in the future. But VR could change the game for Tim Cook or whoever is going to be in charge at the time.

VR creates highly immersive experiences that tend to capture attention unlike any other media. Essentially, the body and mind is wholly focused on the simulated world created by the headset. This is what advertisers dream off; a way to capture the attention of potential buyers and keep it long enough to convince them to take a specific action.

When Apple’s VR efforts mature and it has a respectable VR business going, this is one direction they might seriously consider. There are two ways Apple could do this. The first option is to let VR app developers advertise through their apps. The second and more radical option is to get right into the advertising business themselves. They could do it through a number of ways including Apple Music or Apple TV VR apps.

Virtual reality would truly turn advertising on its head. Instead of the same old advertisements on TV or online, advertisers could create more experiential marketing campaigns. They do not have to tell you how the new car feels, you can drive it yourself. They do not have to tell you how good the safari package will be, you can go on a simulated safari yourself before deciding to pay for the real one. The possibilities are endless.

If well developed, VR advertising could be as much of a money maker to Apple as Adwords is to Google. The immersive experience is something advertisers would be clamoring to provide to their target customers.

Watch this space.

5. Movies and videos

Apple TV Father's Day giftVisual content is a big area for VR developers. The experience of watching a film or video on VR is not only immersive but immensely exhilarating. The feeling is not that of watching something on a screen, as with a TV or a Smartphone, but rather that of being right in the middle of the scene. That is why media companies such as New York Times are scrambling to offer VR videos; the viewer feels connected to what is happening, whether in the US or somewhere in the Middle East.

So it is entirely logical that visual content is one area where Apple plans to go big when it introduces virtual reality. There are already news that Apple is looking to develop original movies and shows for its Apple TV platform.

In the future, Apple could develop visual content aimed specifically for VR users. It might also allow other content producers such as Netflix and Hulu to offer VR content via its VR platform. But knowing Apple’s fierce protectiveness over its ecosystem, this might present some difficulty especially of Apple goes ahead with plans to produce original content.

Visual content extends to music videos, an area that Apple seems to also be interested in. Last year Aple Music showcased a VR music video created by the VR company, Vrse. This area could reap the company huge rewards. Everyone loves music videos and if Apple can present them in more immersive ways, the better for them and their Apple Music subscribers.

6. Gaming

Of course we cannot fail to mention gaming, seemingly the whole reason VR was invented. VR gaming has perhaps been the most successful part of virtual reality. Within a short time, developers have created gaming-dedicated VR kits and players have access to tons of games. If you thought video gaming was exciting, wait till you have had a taste of it in virtual reality. There are still a few kinks to workout but overall, the experience is breathtaking.

Apple could infuse even more excitement by creating an even deeper gaming experience. Already, the company has been recruiting game engineers experienced in VR. Apple has a knack of entering the game late but changing the game once it does. It could do the same with VR gaming.

They could create an Apple VR platform on which developers can present their games. This is the likely path. But they could also decide to create their own gaming content in house or in collaboration with another company. Whatever path they chose, we expect nothing but the best.

7. Other services

The list of what Apple could do with VR technology is endless. Anywhere VR can be used is an area Apple might consider getting into. For instance, everyone is talking about a new shopping experience through virtual reality. Apple might decide it is worth a shot, collaborating with big brands such as Amazon to create unique shopping experiences. They would of course have to start with their own retail stores.

Apple might also decide to get more involved into areas like healthcare and education.

Final Words

It might seem like they have been left behind in the rush to develop VR technology, but history should tell you otherwise. Apple tends to bide its time before jumping into the fray of new technology. By letting a technology go through the market introduction pains, Apple is able to emerge with a refined product that immediately dominates the market.

The rush by Facebook, Google and other companies has certainly speeded up their Apple VR plans, but they are still on time to make a big successful launch. If their foray into VR is anything like the iPod or iPhone, the wait will have worth it.

We are experiencing a shift in technology, from gizmos such as Smartphones and computers to experiences such as artificial driving, driverless cars and virtual reality. Do you think Apple is well prepared to make the shift or is it still too dependent on the iPhone? Feel free to leave your comments below.

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  1. Rob

    2006? Pshhh…I take it you’ve never heard of QuickTime VR, which came out in 1995? The truth is that Apple has had their hands in VR since 1991.

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