Citing sources close to the deal, TechCrunch reports that VR headset maker Vrvana has been acquired by Apple for $30 million.

Vrvana is a little known VR headset maker that’s been on the scene since 2014. The company was building the ‘Totem’ headset, which had gone to Kickstarter that year but came up short of its goal despite a positive start. At the time the company then opened pre-orders for the device, though it isn’t clear if those pre-ordered units ever shipped; the headset continued to evolve drastically in the years following, including an expanded emphasis on pass-through video and hand-tracking for AR experiences. The company was also said to be working on inside-out tracking technology but we never had the chance to see it demonstrated.

Now TechCrunch, citing sources close to the deal, reports that Apple has acquired the company for “around $30 million.” Apple declined to comment on the story while Vrvana didn’t reply to a request for comment. The publication reports that a number of Vrvana’s employees have joined Apple. The timing of the deal is not clear but TechCrunch notes that Vrvana’s social media accounts went silent back in August.

Apple, which has been rumored for years to be doing deep R&D into AR and VR tech (and has made numerous acquisitions and hires in support of those rumors), only just this year finally embraced VR with a number of announcements regarding support for the technology in the Apple ecosystem, but no hint of first-party products in the works.

Apple Embraces VR: Every Virtual Reality Announcement From the WWDC 2017 Keynote

Apple also recently launched ARCore, their AR tracking tech for iOS devices, enabling a first wave of phone-based AR apps. The expectation is that such these experiences will one day be delivered through immersive AR headsets.

Vrvana CEO Bertrand Nepveu looks through an early Totem prototype | Photo by Road to VR

The purported acquisition of Vrvana could be related to the company’s focus on combining VR and AR in one headset. Earlier this year, Vrvana CEO Bertrand Nepveu took to the stage at AWE to talk about blending the two technologies, including a technique that offers a seamless transition between a fully virtual scene and an AR scene (via passthrough cameras), on which the company claims to have filed patents, as well as object occlusion.

Earlier this month it was reported that Apple could be prepping their first immersive AR device for a 2020 launch. Speaking with The Independent, Apple CEO Tim Cook gave a fresh take on the company’s attitude toward AR today::

The display technology required, as well as putting enough stuff around your face—there’s huge challenges with that. The field of view, the quality of the display itself, it’s not there yet. We don’t give a rat’s about being first, we want to be the best, and give people a great experience. But now anything you would see on the market any time soon would not be something any of us would be satisfied with. Nor do I think the vast majority of people would be satisfied.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • I think pass through is, sadly, the only logical “first step” to combine both AR and VR, obviously there are downsides to it as video of what you see is not the same as your eyes seeing the world, video is flat for instance so your eyeballs are focused on a single point in space. Then there is resolution, power, brightness, risk of failure etc. However, video can be manipulated like zoom, night vision, thermal vision and of course computer vision for AR.
    All these struggles to get a HoloLens style system nailed down seems like a bottomless financial pit due to the hurdles of it all so with this it looks like Apple are taking the in-between route.

    Lets hope they bring out a real Mixed Reality retina device soon.

    • Mei Ling

      Not to mention there’s Magic Leap hanging around in the background. R&D in this field is intense (Oculus, HTC/Valve, Samsung/Intel) and it’s good to know all the big players are doing their part to advance this technology as rapidly as possible.

      • Magic Leap is so annoying :) Maybe they have been waiting for Apple (the last one) to show its direction in the marketplace before they reveal what they have and the mad scramble happens. The investment could suggest they need to have funds to bat away the big boys when they finally reveal themselves. It’s just speculation though.

      • David Herrington

        Let’s all agree to never mention Magic Leap again until they actually produce something real… mmmkay?

  • Dave Donley

    Edit: ARKit not ARCore. ARCore is Google.

    • benz145

      Ah yes, thank you. Fixed!

  • Lucidfeuer

    So I didn’t make a mistake by advising people to sell their Alphabet stocks for AAPL. Google are a bunch of mediocre losers.

    • NooYawker

      Why would you sell Google’s stock? They’re steady. Unless you’re the day trader type.

      • Edward Morgan

        Because fanboy. I thought that was obvious from the mediocre losers line.