Apple acquires virtual reality startup NextVR, but what's the plan?

David Matthews

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Apple today confirmed that they will be acquiring NextVR, a virtual reality startup that specializes in producing VR content for sporting events. Neither company has disclosed the terms of the deal, but 9to5Mac reports that it could be worth around $100 million. Apple is also reportedly hiring most of NextVR engineers under a shell company and informing them of a possible relocation to Apple's headquarters.

California-based NextVR was well-known for its partnerships with sports leagues to broadcast games in virtual reality. The company struck a deal with the NBA to broadcast highlights of the 2019 NBA Finals to various VR headsets including PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Microsoft's mixed reality headset partners.

Apple's interests in augmented reality (AR) and VR are well known. In 2016, the company hired Doug Bowman, the Director of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction at Virginia Tech. The following year, Apple acquired AR startup Vrvana for $30 million. Other notable acquisitions include Primesense, the original Kinect developer and Perceptio, who specialized in AI image classification systems.

While part of those acquisitions led to the development of Face ID, Apple's interests are much bigger than simply facial recognition. Apple is reportedly preparing to release an AR headset in 2022 and a smaller version in 2023. Apple CEO Tim Cook has already gone on record to say that augmented reality will be as big as smartphones.

9to5Mac speculates that in addition to virtual reality, NextVR's technology patents for upscaling video streams may also play a part into Apple's long term content strategy. Instead of watching Apple TV+ videos on your iPhone or Apple TV, you could strap on a pair of Apple VR glasses and have it literally in front of your face.

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