Will Apple’s latest acquisition bring VR into video conferencing?


Spaces in action. Source: Spaces.

Apple is making a play in the burgeoning remote meetings space, but bringing virtual reality into the mix, with the acquisition of California startup Spaces.

Apple has confirmed the acquisition, originally reported in Protocol. But the tech goliath didn’t disclose the value of the deal, saying only that it “buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans”.

The startup, founded by former members of Dreamworks Animations’ DreamLab in 2016, calls itself “a bridge between a VR world and Zoom, Skype, Hangouts and more”.

Users create custom avatars, and can present using a whiteboard in a webinar-style setting, or in a keynote-presentation environment, complete with stage, pulpit and PowerPoint presentation.

The business originally focused on VR for location-based entertainment, allowing users to immerse themselves in cities and theme parks.

According to the Protocol article, at the beginning of the pandemic, the startup had to scale back operations, laying off staff members and taking out a loan to stay afloat.

Then, it pivoted to build a VR add-on to video conferencing.

A statement on Spaces’ website now says only that the business is “heading in a new direction”.

It’s unclear whether this means Apple will be pioneering VR in professional video conferencing.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent mass exodus from office to home office, communication tools such as Zoom and Slack have been leading the pack, as other tech providers scramble to meet the ever-shifting needs of their users.

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