Montreal’s Vrvana has been acquired by Apple.
The VR company–makers of the Totem headset, a product that received great reviews but never went to market—has been purchased by technology giant Apple for $30 million USD, according to sources from TechCrunch. The deal falls right in line with Apple’s purported plans to create and ship their own VR headset by 2020.
Though the deal is relatively small when compared to Apple’s total earnings, it is an important step towards realizing what the largest company in the world plans to focus on in the future. Apple is famously quiet when it comes to rumblings of new products, but this acquisition points directly towards a heavy VR play.
Apple has previously criticized the current state of VR and AR in the market, so this announcement could mean the company is taking things into their own hands. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook shared his thoughts when asked if the company was developing a headset.
“Today I can tell you the technology itself doesn’t exist to do that in a quality way. The display technology required, as well as putting enough stuff around your face–there’s huge challenges with that,” Cook told The Independent.
Many Vrvana employees have joined Apple in their California head office according to reports.
Vrvana’s Totem headset is unique in the sense that it harnesses both AR and VR. Other popular VR rigs like Google’s Daydream or the HTC Vive are only VR. This differentiation could factor into the reasoning behind Apple’s purchase, as they do not want to limit themselves to one or the other. AR was a major component of the latest Apple event last September, as games like Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade showed how the company is diving headfirst into the space.
Check out a video of the Vrvana Totem headset in action, along with some discussion from developers.
The system of cameras inside the Totem headset allows for 6DoF tracking, which enables the device to track itself inside of a space while also following a user’s hands. This can come with latency between real-world movements and the ability to depict them on the screen inside the headset. The last time Vrvana CEO Bertrand Nepevu discussed the problem, he mentioned the discrepancy between display and real world had been lowered to three milliseconds.
The amount of funding put into Vrvana is difficult to lock down. They never shipped the Totem but attempted to raise a $350,000 CAD Kickstarter to fund it in 2014. That was funded more than halfway before being shut down.
Apple has acquired several companies in the AR and VR space before, including Metaio, Faceshift and Flyby Media.