Last February we posted a report titled "Apple is definitely working on a Top Secret VR Project," wherein we noted that Apple had been actively seeking display engineer professionals with VR environment experience. In 2013 Apple acquired Israeli company PrimeSense and shortly thereafter we posted a follow-up report reviewing some of the intellectual property that Apple had inherited with their acquisition. It was clear early on that Primesense was a key augmented reality player steeped in real technology regarding advanced 3D scanning. Over time Patently Apple has also archived a number of Apple's augmented reality inventions. Earlier this morning the Financial Times reported that Apple has now hired one of the top U.S. researchers in Virtual Reality.
Apple has hired Doug Bowman, a Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction at Virginia Tech with a lot of experience in 3D user interface design with immersion in virtual environments. He's worked on 33 VR projects over time that cover a wide spectrum of technical areas including games, sports, 3D modeling, Pixelbending, body gesture gaming, 3D user interface with consumer level products, immersive military training system, trauma room simulations and more.
The Financial Times report noted that "Mr. Bowman is highly regarded by his peers in academia and has won several industry prizes for his work in VR and 3D interfaces in the last few years."
The report further noted that "In November, he and a Virginia Tech colleague were also among the first recipients of a $100,000 research grant from Microsoft for using its HoloLens headset, for a study on "collaborative analysis of large-scale mixed reality data". He has also consulted for Walt Disney's Imagineering unit, which develops its theme parks and resorts."
Ben Wood, analyst at CCS Insight, said it was "unthinkable" that Apple has not been "quietly exploring this area" given the 'red hot' technology and its broad application, from entertainment to education and travel.
More importantly, and beyond the topic of VR headsets which dominated the Financial Times report, they noted Ben Wood stating that Mr. Bowman's experience may also bolster Apple's automotive plans. "3D user interfaces are gaining momentum as a future interaction paradigm for carmakers as evidenced at CES. A number of manufacturers such as Audi and BMW were showcasing gesture-based user interfaces which have the potential to evolve into this area. Given the persistent reports of Apple's ambitions in the automotive sector, this could be another reason to secure talent in this domain."