Apple has become the latest mobile company to eye-up the virtual reality scene, applying for a patent on a phone-driven headset which bears a certain resemblance to rival Samsung's Gear VR.
While virtual reality isn't new, it has exploded into big business like never before over the last few years. From Facebook's $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR
to Samsung's Gear VR
and Google's cardboard
, there's a lot of hype surrounding the technology - and much of it is being driven by mobile makers, eager to break out of the confines of a screen small enough to fit into your pocket.
Apple has, until now, not joined the virtual reality fray, but a recently-granted patent suggests that may change. Spotted by Patently Apple
, the company's most-recently granted patent batch includes a video headset into which the user slides an iPhone or iPod to act as the display. While granted only recently, the patent - created by Quin Hoellwarth - was filed back in 2008. That could spell trouble for Samsung, even if its rival doesn't make use of the patent in any future products: its own Gear VR design is remarkably similar to that described in Apple's patent, although Apple has concentrated on the headset's use for video playback rather than virtual reality.
With Samsung, LG, Sony, Google and now Apple all looking at ways to increase the immersion of future mobile devices, it seems clear that - unlike its ill-fated previous attempts - head-mounted display and virtual reality technology may have finally found its feet ahead of a major push into the mainstream.