Why did Apple buy NextVR?

With an acquisition that may help Apple’s development of VR and AR headsets, the company yesterday confirmed the acquisition of NextVR, a startup that provides sports and other content for virtual-reality headsets.

NextVR has deals with major sports leagues including the National Basketball Association and entertainment networks such as Fox Sports. NextVR technology supports live streaming in virtual reality: Think sports, live concerts, and more.

Why did Apple buy NextVR? Apple patent application illustration for display devices with multimodal audio
Apple patent application illustration for “display devices with multimodal audio”

Lucas Matney for TechCrunch:

At face value, this acquisition seems a little strange for Apple. Apple has been pushing full throttle on mobile AR, largely eschewing public activity or interest in the VR world, leaving that domain wholly in Facebook’s hands. Late last year, The Information reported that Apple had informed employees that it may be shipping a device in 2022 that combined AR and VR capabilities in a form factor similar to the Oculus Quest. That, teamed with this acquisition, suggests that Apple may have deeper plans for VR than they’ve previously indicated.

…Releasing a “mixed reality” headset in a couple years and continuing to push developer innovation on AR content while relying on a broader base of VR content satisfying users makes practical sense for a gen-one AR device.

9to5Mac pinned the NextVR deal price around $100 million, a price… that would be a lot of money for Apple to pay for something for which they don’t have meaningful plans…

The main problem with all of this is that VR-optimized content doesn’t translate very well to augmented reality. NextVR’s solution leverages the full field-of-view of existing VR headsets, putting users in a wholly 3D environment. There’s no technical reasons that AR headset users couldn’t eventually experience this content in the same way, but there aren’t any AR headsets with the field-of-view to leverage this type of content, and advances here have been pretty slow. Existing AR devices might not be optimized for VR and vice versa, but Apple might already be organizing itself with the assumption that that won’t be the case for long.

MacDailyNews Take: The problem with AR right now are the delivery devices. iPhone and iPad are suboptimal AR delivery devices. We need lightweight, stylish eyewear that just works. That is when AR development will take off and AR killer apps will be born.

So, for one example, mundane as it may be: You want to fix a leaky shower without involving a plumber. Today you have to use your iPad, iPhone, or MacBook to watch and follow along with a video to see how to pull the old shower valve’s cartridge and install a replacement. Imagine that info just being there in front of your eyes as you work. Pausing when you say “pause” and informing when you say “next step.” Now, extrapolate that experience to basically everything. Apple Glasses will be a massive game-changer!

The Apple Glasses will be the key as holding up slabs of glass as “windows” is suboptimal. When we’re running in a race, for example, we don’t want to have to hold an iPhone or even glance at an Apple Watch, but with a pair of Apple Glasses constantly overlaying time, pace, splits, etc. it’ll be ideal! — MacDailyNews, September 6, 2019

The impact of augmented reality cannot be overstated. It will be a paradigm shift larger than the iPhone and the half-assed clones it begat. — MacDailyNews, August 4, 2017

Augmented Reality is going to change everything.MacDailyNews, July 21, 2017

Someday, hopefully sooner than later, we’ll look back at holding up slabs of metal and glass to access AR as unbelievably quaint. — MacDailyNews, July 28, 2017


    1. Quality VR (i.e. better systems than gimmicky goggles you slide a phone into) is only gaining steam and is here to stay. It will remain niche, but that’s to be expected for a technology that almost completely isolates you audio-visually from the real world.

  1. VR on AMD and ARM. LOL. Valve already dropped support, Unreal 5 just got announced and clearly will require amazing NVidia tech. Apple’s will be more like a 3D desktop interface in front of your eyes, which is cool.. but NOT VR.

    1. They never will be.

      VR in the near term is all about games. Apple wants to cash in on American couch potatoes.

      Apple has significantly more important things to do IMHO but it’s instead just another corporation without any compass other than executive enrichment.

      If Cook truly wanted to change the world for the better, he’d not waste time on stock buybacks and virtual tech would take a back seat to REAL product and manufacturing advancements, as well as dramatically improved software that just works.

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