Apple reportedly buys VR headset maker Vrvana for $30 million

Joanna Estrada
November 22, 2017

Apple has acquired the Montreal-based startup Vrvana, according to TechCrunch, a 12-year-old company that could help Apple produce hardware for augmented reality and virtual reality experiences.

Founded in 2005, Vrvana is developing a mixed reality headset called "Totem" that is claimed to be able to overlay full, colorized digital images over the real-world to create a fully seamless 3D augmented reality environment - a step more advanced than Microsoft Corp.'s Hololens platform. Also, it eliminates the potentially disorienting lag that's characteristic with camera-based approaches to mixed reality - prototypes have cut the delay down to just 3ms, as the company's Bertrand Nepveu explained in June. Further, infrared cameras assist Totem in tracking user hands. The company typically acknowledges a purchase with a boilerplate statement saying that it doesn't discuss its plans for newly-bought companies.

Apple's use of full-faced devices such as the HTC Vive suggests that instead of trying to tackle the hard and expensive problem of lightfield technology Apple may simply be going for a simpler passthrough system where the only challenge would be to improve latency to an acceptable level. It would make the most sense for the AR headset rumored for 2020, which is said to be a fully self-contained device with its own operating system.

VRvana's Totem is now tethered, but I assume Apple will solve this issue over the next few years.

Whatever the startup brings to the table, it's just one part of a larger puzzle. However, today's news is likely to fuel rumours that Apple is serious about offering a standalone AR product by the end of the decade.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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