Apple hires one of the leading virtual reality researchers in the United States in an effort to make a prominent presence in the scene, hinting at cars with 3D interfaces and gesture control in the future.
To keep up the pace with rival companies such as Alphabet, Facebook, Microsoft and Samsung, the Cupertino brand employed Doug Bowman, who is a computer science professor and director of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction at Virginia Tech with five years of experience under his belt.
According to the Financial Times, Bowman joined Apple after a "sabbatical from his post." His studies mainly involve the design of 3D user interface and the advantages of immersing in virtual environments. To further lay out his credentials, he is part of the 3D Interaction Group of the aforementioned state university, where he takes on the role of primary investigator.
"We participate in a worldwide community of scholars and researchers in VR, AR, and 3D UIs," the association says.
He has also won numerous industry awards (PDF) and a Microsoft HoloLens academic research grant back in Nov. 2015, where he along with Associate Professor Joseph Gabbard earned $100,000 and two Development Edition units of the untethered holographic computer.
With a rich experience in the fields of both virtual and augmented realities, Bowman is definitely an asset to Apple. However, both the virtual reality expert and the company haven't given out an official statement yet.
The technology in question is widely sought after in the automobile industry, where several top carmakers have started to implement controls and user interfaces based on gestures. More to the point, Apple has been displaying a strong interest in vehicles, including the much-rumored Project Titan.
To put two and two together, this recent development indicates that there's more or less a chance that the Cupertino brand is looking into producing a smart vehicle fitted with 3D interfaces and gesture controls.
One of the latest projects Bowman had a hand in is titled "Designing Effective Travel Techniques with the Leap," giving a glimpse of what he can bring to the table.
Now, Apple comes across as a secretive firm when it comes to adopting new technologies, revealing little or no public initiatives, but analysts thought it was unlikely for the company to not take part in the growing virtual reality sector.
"I'd wager that there is a substantial team within Apple figuring out how the company will play a role in this technology," Ben Wood, an analyst at CSS Insight, says.
To serve as more evidence to the fact, Apple purchased PrimeSense, a company that's known to have played a part in Microsoft's Kinect motion device, back in 2013 and acquired the German augmented reality startup Metaio last year. To top them off, the company also bought Faceshift, the motion capture team team behind the animated avatars of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
It appears that Apple has set its eye on yet another field of technology, integrating 3D and gesture-based interfaces with automobiles. It's safe to assume that with Bowman, the company will be able to catch up – assuming that its research is left behind – or take a position in the frontlines of the industry.