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Is Apple Set To Launch A Virtual Reality Headset?

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Patent for head-mounted holder was first filed in 2010

Apple could be planning to extend its dominance of the technology industry into a whole new sector with the release of a Virtual Reality (VR) device.

The technology giant has patented a VR headset which works by plugging a smartphone device into it, and bears more than a passing resemblance to several existing products.

US Patent No 8,957,835, entitled “Head-Mounted Display Apparatus for Retaining a Portable Electronic Device with Display”, shows a headset somewhat similar to Google’s Cardboard offering –  a piece of reinforced cardboard that can be folded into a set of glasses users can slot their device into.

VR-headset patent Immersive

However, the design (pictured left) also includes several interesting features, including an option for ‘picture in picture’ viewing, which would allow the use of multiple apps at once, for example, a user viewing a video in on corner whilst reading emails.

The patent also describes sensors that listen out for external sounds, such as an in-flight announcement by the pilot or flight attendant, and can then turn the volume on the headset down or pause any content that is playing so that the user can hear what is being said.

While there will be some physical controls, the patent also mentions other controls that are set off by either Siri voice commands or head movements.

The patent is one of 41 that have been newly granted to Apple and published by the US Patent and Trademark Office on February 17, the company revealed. However it was first filed by Apple in 2010, with work starting on the headset back in 2008.

Since then, several manufacturers have released devices similar to this design, most notably Samsung’s Gear VR headset, where a smartphone is slotted into a headset holder.

Probably the most famous is Oculus Rift, the crowdfunded virtual reality product, which was bought by Facebook in March 2014 for £1.1bn.

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