Apple has purchased Spaces, a virtual-reality startup that lets users have meetings in the digital world.
Spaces previously made location-based virtual reality experiences, most recently based on the Terminator Salvation brand. It was was spun out of DreamWorks Animation in 2016.
Following the coronavirus lockdown, the company changed to making animated avatars as an add-on for videoconferencing software Zoom, as well as Skype and Google Hangouts.
Its software was compatible with a range of headsets, including Facebook-owned Oculus, the HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality products.
It is unclear what the company will be working on as a part of Apple, but the software giant has been rumoured to be making virtual reality and augmented reality products for years.
“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” a company spokesperson told Protocol, which first broke the news.
One week before the acquisition was revealed, Spaces announced it was shutting down. The company’s website says the business is “heading in a new direction”.
“Thank you to our users and partners who participated in our awesome VR video conferencing product and the many people who enjoyed our VR location-based entertainment attractions found at theme parks, theatres, and more.”
Apple had purchased other virtual reality companies including NextVR, Akonia Holographics and Vrvana, and has been rumoured to be releasing a virtual reality headset for some time – although the company has not yet made an announcement confirming such rumours.
As well as virtual reality, Apple has been strengthening its augmented reality technology. Augmented reality is when digital experiences are placed over real world objects, similar to Pokemon Go, whereas virtual reality is entirely in a digital space.
Apple analyst Ming-chi Kuo, who regularly accurately revealed information about forthcoming products from the company, has suggested the company will be announcing augmented reality glasses.
In an interview with The Independent, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that he does not believe “anything will be untouched” by augmented reality, and that shopping will be changed “entirely”.
Recently, Google also purchased smart-glasses company North, so it could “invest in [its] hardware efforts and ambient computing future.”