February 24, 2015
In 2008, Apple filed a patent titled “Head-Mounted Display Apparatus for Retaining a Portable Electronic Device with Display.” Last week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office finally approved the patent, which has been compared to the Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard. The patent’s blueprints show evidence of a headset with a slot fitting for the iPhone. While Apple reportedly has no immediate VR projects of its own, the recent patent approval signifies the company’s interest in VR technology.
The patent claim filed by Apple describes a “HMD [head mounted display] made up of a frame that is adapted to receive a mobile device such that the frame positions the mobile device in front of a user’s eyes and presents visual content to the user…” says patent attorney and founder of About Face VR, Eric Greenbaum, as reported by Road to VR.
AppleInsider adds that the patent also shows signs of “a remote control that the user could keep in their hand, allowing them to manipulate the content on the screen while their eyes are obscured by the iPhone display.”
Greenbaum explains that while it may have taken Apple several years to get patent approval, the timeline is not unusual. The patent approval was less likely to have been influenced by the development and release of other VR projects by Apple’s competitors. Instead, Greenbaum argues that Apple probably would have wanted earlier patent approval but had to wait as long as it did by chance.
Apple’s next move is now in question. The company could decide to go absolutely nowhere with the patent. On the other hand, Greenbaum shares with Road to VR that Apple’s “patent filings indicate a strong interest in the field” and that he expects it “to be planning something. Their model is generally to wait and see how things develop and then come in with a clean, easy, and simple to use product.”