Apple has long been rumoured to be investing heavily in virtual and augmented reality solutions, while fresh reports on the internet point to the company's growing interest in Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL). Quite strangely, the iPhone maker has lately become a frequent visitor to the lab, although it reportedly made no shows for a long time following the lab's launch in 2003.
The founding director of the VHIL, Jeremy Bailenson, has reportedly told Wall Street Journal that Apple's recent visits were the first since the founding of the lab in 2003. Here is what Bailenson had to say regarding Apple's recent surge of interest in their work:
"Apple hasn't come to my lab in 13 years, except they've come three times in the last three months. They come and they don't say a word, but there's a data point for you."
It is reported that Apple representatives were put through an immersive VR experience, wherein the user runs through a simulated course of virtual reality interventions with the emphasis on learning empathy through forced perspective. As iPhone Hacks reports, a male subject would be exposed to prejudice as he interacts as a female persona in the VR world and the second project aims at teaching sustainable behaviours such as cutting down on use of paper and saving hot water.
It is still not clear how one could implement the existing VR technology in real-world scenarios. However, Stanford's team is eagerly building on the necessary hardware and software for the future that could support the likes of Apple's VR solutions or rival Facebook's Oculus. With the advent of HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, there seems to be a healthy competition in the VR market as more and more companies like Sony and Microsoft try innovating with the application of VR technology into their game consoles.
Meanwhile, Apple has already strengthened its investment portfolio in the VR domain with recent acquisitions such as expression analysis startup Emotient, real-time motion capture firm Faceshift and augmented reality company Metaio. Not to mention, the company recently hired Doug Bowman, a top researcher in the VR domain as the stage seems well set for Apple's dominance in the VR industry, in the near future.