Apple Dives Deeper into Virtual Reality with Purchase of Broadcaster NextVR
August 12, 2020
The news of Apple purchasing NextVR is a major change in the VR market. While they are not revealing their exact plans for the platform, it is a strong indication that something big is coming.
As of last year, NextVR was heading towards 100 employees and secured some major brand-named partnerships in the sports world. As a startup in 2009, it had gained significant traction and support in the VR industry.
The niche focus of this company was not simply on headsets or gaming experiences. They wanted to deliver better at-home virtual reality entertainment experiences, especially to sports fans. Sports weren’t all that they covered though, as everything from concerts to paranormal investigations was provided in full VR.
Using special cameras at the events, NextVR was able to provide people at home with a realistic experience of major events that were being hosted hundreds of miles away.
However, since the acquisition by Apple, their website currently displays a message that “NextVR is Heading in a New Direction” – which hints at some major changes being in the pipeline, although nothing has yet been announced as to what these changes could be.
Why Should Apple be interested in VR/AR?
Apple has already been working on their headset for a while. Although there is no official launch date at this time, many expect the launch to happen in the next 18 months. There are rumors that this headset is going to provide both AR and VR in one device. The purchase of NextVR by Apple shows a strong commitment to this technology.
The Future of VR
VR is not only about entertainment, such as concerts and games, but can be used in so many other ways.
People can virtually experience almost anything through VR, making it a great tool for sales, useful for training, and even for helping to improve the lives of those with physical challenges.
This technology can be used for virtual travel, distance education, online shopping, or even shopping for a new car virtually without the need for visiting a showroom. The full range of opportunities isn’t yet known, as new innovations are constantly being unveiled.
VR in Online Shopping
When it comes to online shopping, instead of viewing a 2D image on a website, your shopping experience could actually be in a virtual shop or showroom where you can interact with the items. You can view items from all angles, and even hear them in a totally virtual environment from within your own home.
VR in the Medical Sector
In the medical sector, potential uses being explored are amazing. Not only can students study and practice virtually, but doctors can also consult and assist with treatments and patient diagnosis from anywhere in the world.
VR in Robotics
5G is also coming into the picture, offering data transfer rates that were previously not possible, especially wirelessly. This then allows for VR and AR to become ‘live’ and wireless, with the content being streamed remotely and allowing for almost instant real-time interactions. As robotics progress, VR and 5G could become a human connection technology.
As COVID-19 spreads, the need for at-home meetings, training, and more has been growing exponentially in demand. VR and AR can allow people to do incredible things from home without needing to risk physical contact or exposure.
Whatever is coming is almost sure to be market challenging, especially when combining the entertainment systems of NextVR with the likely high-end VR/AR tech of Apple’s new headset.
What Likely Motivated the Move to Purchase NextVR?
While there are rumors about Apple soon launching a new device in this sector, this particular purchase was more likely connected with entertainment and some of the technologies that NextVR used in production.
VR and AR content and uses are expanding. It is important for any company that breaks into this industry to have both effective technology and quality content.
NextVR had the technology and partnerships to provide great content, but we will have to wait and see what Apple does with it. While NextVR is, of course, focused on VR content, there are already ideas in the pipeline for AR glasses that allow the experience of VR content in various ways.
If the details provided by MacRumors are correct, then the way we currently experience AR and VR might be changing. MacRumors claims that, “Apple is working on two AR projects, including an augmented reality headset set to be released in 2022 followed by a sleeker pair of augmented reality glasses coming in 2023.”
MacRumors has deduced from the patents filed and the help of an insider that Apple not only plans to provide glasses in this field but also new and inventive ways for which users will be able to interact with augmented worlds.
Most VR or AR setups today require interaction through devices like gloves or other sensor fitted devices. However, Apple seems to be working towards a way in which people could virtually interact with surfaces and augmented environments through natural movement and touch – with no other devices needed.
How Much was Apple’s Purchase of Broadcaster NextVR?
NextVR was a startup company with a strong focus on providing the next level in at-home sporting entertainment.
Considering the initial investment raised $115.5 million (tracked by Crunchbase), the purchase should be a considerable amount. However, we will not know the exact figure until it is made public.
The initial rounds of investments, VR streaming technology, and high-end partnerships with major sports entities like Wimbledon and the NBA make it likely this takeover involved a significant purchase price.
The exact price is unknown. Although the purchase was confirmed to 9to5Mac by Apple, the full details were not disclosed. 9to5Mac estimated the purchase price was likely around $100 million.
Where is Apple VR/AR Going Next?
There are signs that a high-end spec VR and AR device will be released soon.
It is likely to be a single device that can perform both functions, with wireless freedom for the user. It will be powered by Apple’s state of the art technology, which has long held a reputation for its graphics processing capabilities.
This will be a challenge to Microsoft’s and Facebook’s current grip on the market. In order to crack the market, Apple needs to launch something that is beyond what is currently available and popular. Apple has already released ARKit to developers, sparking the development of AR apps for iPhones and iPads.
Facebook acquired Oculus in March of 2014, which prompted rapid growth from developers to create content and take a leap into VR products.
Many are currently predicting that computers and phones themselves could even be replaced with AR glasses that project what we need and allow us to interact with the image via motion tracking or compact sensor devices.
How many of the ‘things’ we use today could become augmented objects of the future? For an indication, just look at the number of objects and functions a mobile phone has replaced over the last 10-20 years.
This market is going to explode, with some current projections showing ten-fold growth in the next 4-5 years. As of 2019, the current AR market was worth about $33 billion, and the VR market was worth $13.5 billion according to Consultancy.org. They then project this to expand to $338.1 billion and $138.3 respectively.
LEFTRONIC also predicts rapid growth, showing that as soon as 2025, there is a significant chance that “the AR market will reach $198 billion” and that “68.7 million users are expected to use augmented reality at least once monthly”.
No wonder Apple is making some major moves.