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Often, patent filings are great indicators for a tech company’s next big product – and just as often, they’re just ways to protect against other companies innovating out from under them. Today, Apple was granted a patent application for a virtual reality headset designed for iPhones – though it remains to be seen if Apple will ever bother to release something like this in an official capacity.

Spotted by AppleInsider today, the patent for the “head-mounted display apparatus for retaining a portable electronic device with display” was filed back in September, 2008. In terms of its scope, it isn’t much different from what we’ve seen from Samsung’s Gear VR headset, or the various headsets that will work with the Google Cardboard app, like the recently announced ones from LG for the G3 or the new View-Master coming from Google and Mattel later this year.

One of the big differences, however, is that Apple’s patent adds in the possibility of a remote that users could employ to interact with the VR software. That’d be a whole lot better than the magnetic ring that comes with most Google Cardboard set-ups, which only allows for “clicks” and relies on a user’s head movements for navigation. The Gear VR, meanwhile, enjoys a touchpad on the side for its UI; both of them, meanwhile, are compatible with Bluetooth game controllers.

Will Apple bring this headset to market? Well, there was a job listing for a software engineer for “virtual reality systems” back in November. Even still, Apple seems mostly focused on getting ready to shock the world with the first smash-hit wearable in the Apple Watch – tackling the nascent (and so far small-scale) mobile virtual reality industry may be a bit beneath the company at the moment. On the other hand, there have been plenty of rumors lately about Apple’s apparent intention to make an electric car. In short, it’s tough to predict just what Apple will deem a worthwhile endeavor. And considering how many various VR headsets are coming out for Android smartphones, Apple might want to show Google and its partners how it’s really done.

[Source: USPTO via AppleInsider]

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