Apple has yet to officially enter the virtual reality space, but a new patent proves that Apple has been at least thinking about VR.
Apple was just awarded a patent titled “Head-Mounted Display Apparatus for Retaining a Portable Electronic Device with Display,” which details a virtual reality headset powered by an iPhone or iPod, according to Apple Insider.
The headset would use the iPhone’s screen as the headset’s primary display, allowing users to slot their iPhone into the headset’s frame when they want to use it for virtual reality. The patent, first filed in 2008, also includes images of a remote that could be used to interact with the device since the iPhone’s multitouch display won’t be accessible from within the headset.
If the idea of a smartphone-powered virtual reality headset sounds familiar, that’s because Samsung has already released one with its Gear VR headset.
The Gear VR uses a Galaxy Note 4 as its primary display, which is slotted onto the front of the headset when in use. Samsung teamed up with Oculus, creators of the much-anticipated Oculus Rift, for the Gear VR. The deal reportedly allowed Samsung to feature Oculus’ in-house technology, software, and branding in exchange for Samsung giving Oculus access to its mobile display supply chain for future iterations of the Oculus Rift.
The Gear VR has received mostly positive reviews, with most critiques aimed at the small amount of content available at the device’s launch. While it’s still very much early days for virtual reality games and experiences, Apple could leverage its close relationships with app developers and the thriving App Store to create a virtual reality-enabled apps, and the iPhone’s popularity would mean consumers would only have to purchase the VR headset.
It’s not hard to imagine Apple taking a stab at virtual reality if enough interest is there. It certainly has all the ingredients already in place. It could also build an augmented reality product similar to the Microsoft HoloLens: the company patented “interactive holograms” over two years ago. But, of course, Apple has filed countless patents for devices and technologies that haven’t made it into actual consumer products.
You can look at the entire patent filing right here.