Apple taps Virginia Tech for virtual reality guru

Apple doesn’t like to play second banana to anyone. But when it comes to the emerging market for virtual reality products, Apple hasn’t even made a hobby of VR technology.

That looks like it’s about to change, thanks to one new Apple employee: Doug Bowman. His name might not be that well-known in Silicon Valley, but Bowman, who until recently was a computer science professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (aka, Virginia Tech), and director of its Center for Human-Computer Interaction. In the world of VR, Bowman is considered a big deal.

Bowman is the main author of the book “3D User Interfaces: Theory and Practice”, which is considered to be one of the de facto texts on 3D interface technology. Bowman also was recently a co-recipient of a $100,000 research award given by Microsoft. That award was given so that Bowman and a colleague could use Microsoft’s own Hololens VR headset in a “collaborative analysis of large-scale mixed reality data,” according to Microsoft Research.

It may sound wonky, but VR is where some of the biggest tech companies are betting that the technology can be a gold mine not just in the business market, but with consumers, too. In addition to Microsoft, Facebook made a big splash when it bought Oculus for $2 billion to acquire its Oculus Rift VR headset technology. Samsung is marketing its Gear VR headset for watching videos and playing games on its smartphones.

However, Apple, despite a track record of upending industries for decades, has yet to seriously get in to VR. The company has received some patents related to VR technology, but as yet, there hasn’t been an iHeadset, or other VR product to go alongside the iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and other products that dominate the shelf space at the company’s retail stores.

But with Bowman coming on board recently, according to the Financial Times, Apple may just be saying it’s ready to make virtual reality an actual reality in its product line.

Photo credit: AP

 

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