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Martin Gee for TIME

Another Clue Apple Is Experimenting With Virtual Reality

Updated: Jan 22, 2016 10:57 AM ET

Apple has added another notable name in the virtual reality industry to its team.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company recently hired VR expert Doug Bowman from Virginia Tech, The Financial Times reported, which TIME has confirmed. Bowman worked at the university as a computer science professor, also serving as director of the institute's Center for Human-Computer Interaction.

Bowman is an accomplished researcher in the virtual reality space, having received the 2014 Visualization and Graphics Technical Committee technical achievement award from the Institute of of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

The hire is Apple's latest move signaling it's exploring possibilities around virtual reality. Apple last year poached a key audio engineer from Microsoft's HoloLens team, which Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster first pointed out in a research note from August. In May of last year, Apple acquired augmented reality startup Metaio, and in November it purchased motion-capture firm Faceshift.

Industry watchers speculate that the technologies developed by both of these companies could give Apple the assets necessary to create some type of augmented or virtual reality device.

Augmented reality gadgets, such as Microsoft HoloLens or Google Glass, overlay virtual images on top of the real world. Virtual reality differs from augmented reality in that it takes the viewer into a completely virtual environment.

Meet Virtual Reality’s Most Important Pioneers

Palmer Lucky, Founder of Oculus, wearing a set of Oculus goggles at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. on June 23, 2015.Gregg Segal for TIME
Oculus game view
Alex Kipman holdsa Microsoft HoloLens at the microsoft hq in redmond, Wa on june 25, 2015.
Ken Birdwell, an engineer from valve demonstrates the Vive virtual reality headset at the valve hq in Seattle, WA on June 25, 2015.
Alex Schwartz from Owlchemy Labs, a juggler in real life, juggling tomatoes in their 'Job Simulator' game for the Vive.
Clay Bavor wears a Google Cardboard headset in the google woodworking shop in googles hq in mountain view, CA on june 24, 2015.
Palmer Lucky, Founder of Oculus, wearing a set of Oculus goggles at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. on J

Gregg Segal for TIME
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Apple has not confirmed any plans to delve into virtual or augmented reality. Still, its biggest rivals are making commitments to these technologies. The Facebook-owned Oculus VR will be launching its Rift headset this spring, while Google recently announced updates to its affordable cardboard VR viewer. Samsung, Sony, and HTC are all selling or developing virtual reality headsets as well.

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