Apple has yet to enter the realm of virtual or augmented reality, unlike many of its competitors including Facebook with Oculus, Microsoft with Hololens and Google with Cardboard. That doesn’t mean it isn’t considering a move into the industry with the Cupertino-based company hiring one of America’s leading experts on virtual and augmented reality, Virginia Tech computer science professor Doug Bowman.

To take up the position Doug Bowman is taking a sabbatical from his position at Virginia Tech, where he has been director of the Centre for Human-Computer Interaction. That’s not the only experience he has for the role either, having co-authored 3D User Interfaces: Theory and Practice; a subject he has dedicated a lot of time to, writing numerous articles on the subject over the last few years.

Apple isn’t the only company noticing Doug’s talents either; the professor was recently awarded a $100,000 (£70,000) research grant from Microsoft for using its HoloLens headset for a study on ‘collaborative analysis of large-scale mixed reality data’.

Doug is not the first person to join Apple with the express purpose of developing VR or AR technology either. As early as 2014 the iPhone manufacturer openly advertised roles inside the company to work on virtual reality. The company even created a 3D video for U2, despite not having a dedicated device to immerse its customers with.

Apple’s interest in VR goes back even further than that however, even pre-dating the launch of the iPhone. Its first patent on the technology was filed in January 2007.

While Apple is clearly very interested in the future of virtual reality, there’s no saying that this hire is specifically related to the development of a headset. Instead the Financial Times believes that Doug’s expertise could be used to create a 3D user interface for its ‘Titan’ car project.

Little is known about Apple’s automobile project, but it’s rumoured to include some of the brightest minds in the industry. Apple has reportedly been hiring talent from Tesla Motors in preparation for its own autonomous electric vehicle; a fact that has really irked the company’s CEO, Elon Musk.

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