Apple buys NextVR and takes live VR firm in ‘new direction’

NextVR camera
NextVR has produced live virtual reality streams for partners including the NBA. (NextVR)

Apple confirmed to Bloomberg that it acquired NextVR, a technology startup that produces live virtual reality broadcasts of sporting events, concerts and more.

Financial details were not disclosed but 9to5Mac, which first reported the deal last month, said the transaction could be valued at $100 million. NextVR, which Bloomberg said officially shut down last week, closed its website too and said it’s “heading in a new direction.”

“Thank you to our partners and fans around the world for the role you played in building this awesome platform for sports, music and entertainment experiences in virtual reality,” the company wrote.

RELATED: NBA, NextVR to livestream weekly NBA games in VR

It’s still unclear what that new direction could be. NextVR’s technology could play a role in Apple’s rumored augmented reality/virtual reality project that could include goggles. Multiple reports have suggested that Apple will introduce an AR headset within the next few years.

“Streaming specialist NextVR could allow Apple to translate original content on Apple TV+ into the VR format. Although VR-based streaming is a niche area now, competition is increasing. Google and Disney are already active in this space (with YouTube VR and Hulu VR, respectively) and Apple will have its work hard to catch up,” said Rupantar Guha, senior analyst for thematic research at GlobalData.

NextVR has for years been partnering with sports leagues and other live event companies to help produce virtual reality broadcasts. In 2016, the company reached a deal with the NBA to allow its League Pass subscribers to access 180-degree livestreams of NBA games with hardware including the Samsung Gear VR. That year NextVR also reportedly reached an agreement with Live Nation to offer virtual livestreams of concerts.

NextVR launched in 2009 and, according to Crunchbase, has “more than 26 patents granted or pending for the capture, compression, transmission, and display of virtual reality content.” The company’s investors including media giants like Comcast (through its Comcast Ventures arm) and Time Warner. In 2015, those companies along with Dick Clark Productions, Madison Square Garden Company, RSE Ventures and Peter Gruber, backed $30.5 million Series A funding round for NextVR.