Point and click graphic user interface? It was around before the Mac. Portable media players were everywhere before the iPod. Smartphones? Plenty before the iPhone arrived to set everyone else on the right direction. Tablets? A full decade plus before the iPad changed the industry. See? Apple doesn’t mind missing the boat because it sails where it wants anyway. Here’s what Apple is missing. But is it the ‘next big thing?‘
The Virtual Reality Reality
You’ve seen them on TV news and YouTube. It’s the buzzword of the past couple of years now in hardware (and cardboard) products making their way to the marketplace. Virtual reality headsets. Think Samsung Gear VR. Think Occulus Rift. Think McDonald’s Happy Meal boxes. Seriously.
Members of the technology industry and their media brethren, members of the technorati elite politburo, point to virtual reality devices as the next big thing. Generally speaking, a virtual reality headset straps onto your eyes like goggles and a screen inside lets you play immersive games or see a different reality that what actually is around you.
Couldn’t you do the same exact thing by stuffing your iPhone into a cardboard box and using a band to hold it onto your face? Yep. That’s called Happy Goggles. Google has something similar, minus the food, called Google Cardboard. The virtual reality experience can be obtained with software– an app– that simulates what you would see within a more expensive virtual reality headset and custom software.
Is this really the next big thing? If so, where is Apple?
If history is to repeat itself, and it seems to do so with regularity, then Apple already is working on a VR experience, perhaps a standalone hardware product with custom software, but it could also be little more than a headset which holds an iPhone for the visuals.
After all, for Google Cardboard and the McDonald’s Happy Goggles and even Samsung’s Gear VR, the whole virtual reality experience is just strapping a smartphone to your face, so Apple is halfway there already. Virtual Reality Reporter says Apple has been granted a few virtual reality patents. That in and of itself is not news or of value. Apple has many patents for products and features that never make it to market.
No matter how you slice ‘the next big thing’ as an opportunity or a hardware or software market, there are questions that must be answered.
- Will augmented reality come with virtual reality so we can walk around with VR headsets and not bump into things?
- Is this what Apple has planned for us to do while Apple’s self-driving autonomous car drives us to work?
- What’s the difference in experience between a dedicated Occulus Rift-like VR headset vs. a cardboard box and an iPhone?
- Is there any money in VR?
Maybe the most interesting question is, “What will Apple do as the VR industry begins to grow?” Hardware? Or, software? Or, both? My bet is on the latter.