We speculated recently that instead of trying to solve the complicated problem of light field technology to insert holograms into your field of view Apple may simply use pass-through technology to bring the real world into virtual reality instead. This was based on rumours that Apple was experimenting with the HTC Vive full-faced VR headset for AR, and at the time we wrote:
Apple’s use of full-faced devices such as the HTC Vive suggests that instead of trying to tackle the difficult and expensive problem of lightfield technology Apple may simply be going for a simpler passthrough system where the only challenge would be to improve latency to an acceptable level. Such a system would benefit from being able to implement Apple’s ARKit API directly without any significant modifications at all, which should mean a ready pool of software available right of the bat.
A new company just purchased by Apple may confirm this theory. Apple has just purchased VRvana, a company which makes a VR headset called Totem which features several cameras, including an RGB set with a 120 degree field of view which brings the outside world to the inside of the headset, to high resolution OLED screens with only 3 ms latency.
The headset promises a seamless blend of augmented and virtual reality and also features inside-out tracking via infrared cameras and also does hand tracking for gesture control using the same cameras.
VRvana’s Totem is currently tethered, but I assume Apple will solve this issue over the next few years.
We recently called lack of passthrough camera support on Windows Mixed Reality Microsoft’s biggest mistake. It seems Apple is all too ready to capitalize on this.