Apple has been very quietly putting together blocks of its virtual reality (VR) strategy in 2015. It began with being awarded a patent titled ‘Head-Mounted Display Apparatus for Retaining a Portable Electronic Device with Display’ which essentially means a virtual reality headset powered by an iPhone or iPod – held inside the apparatus.

The action continued behind the scenes with a sudden surge in job listings and new VR expert hires. The most significant hire of the year in the VR direction was possibly Nick Thompson, who worked for Microsoft’s Mountain View California facility as ‘Audio Hardware Engineer Lead’ and was lead audio engineer for HoloLens, Microsoft’s VR headset.

While much has been happening behind closed doors, analysts predict that in 2016, that is going to change. Apple will become “very aggressive on the virtual/augmented reality front through organic as well as acquisitive means in 2016 as this represents a natural next generation consumer technology that plays well into its unrivaled iPhone ecosystem,” FBR & Co analyst Daniel Ives said, according to a report.

In the same report, Ives predicts that Oculus, HTC and Sony will dominate the field once they launch consumer devices next year. However, he says we shouldn’t count out Google Cardboard, GoPro or Microsoft’s HoloLens, the last of which Ives calls the “biggest wild card” thanks to its focus on augmented reality.

It seems Apple has had enough of sitting on the bench and is raring to go in the VR field of play. A series of acquisitions this year also point to Apple’s VR domination dreams. Most recently, it acquired faceshift – the motion capture firm, in November. The company develops technology that helps render human-like gestures on the faces of virtual characters and was used in the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Other significant acquisitions this year include Perceptio – a startup that develops technology to let companies run advanced artificial intelligence systems on smartphones without needing to share much user data. VocalIQ, that was acquired in October, builds a platform for voice interfaces to make voice-enabling devices and apps easier. Apple’s acquisition of German Augmented Reality technology and solution provider Metaio also added to their VR firepower this year.

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