Apple CEO Tim Cook Andrew Burton, Getty Images

Apple Quietly at Work on Virtual Reality

“I don’t think it’s a niche,” CEO Tim Cook said about virtual reality on the company’s most recent quarterly earnings call. “I think it is really cool and has some interesting applications.”

Apple has a team secretly working on virtual and augmented reality gear in a budding challenge to Facebook’s Oculus Rift and the Microsoft HoloLens, according to a report in The Financial Times.

The team’s ranks number in the hundreds, bolstered by talent hired away from companies working on altered-reality technology and buying startups in the fields, according to The Times. Apple also has a trove of patents related to technology that could be put to work in reality-altering gear.

Apple has not commented on reports it is exploring virtual reality, but CEO Tim Cook voiced interest while answering a question during a quarterly earnings call last week.

“I don’t think it’s a niche,” Cook said of virtual reality in response to a question from an analyst. “I think it is really cool and has some interesting applications.”

Apple has been building headset prototypes for months, according to The Times.

Altered realities abounded at CES 2016 in Las Vegas last month, touching everything from sex and sports to sales and space exploration. Virtual reality (VR) headsets immersed people in fictional worlds, while augmented reality (AR) eyewear overlaid digital data on the scenes around them.

Unlike virtual reality, which immerses people in fictional worlds, augmented reality makes information appear to float in the real world.

Facebook-owned Oculus is taking pre-orders for its eagerly-anticipated Rift VR headsets at a price of $599. Rift was slated to begin shipping in March. Microsoft is expected to release its HoloLens augmented reality visors this year.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2016

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