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Another Clue Apple Is Experimenting With Virtual Reality

BizTech Illos Virtual Reality
Martin Gee for TIME

Apple's latest hire hints that it's exploring VR technology

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.

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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