Apple has been granted a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for a virtual-reality (VR) headset designed to accommodate an iPhone as its display.
The device, entitled "Head-mounted display apparatus for retaining a portable electronic device with display" in the patent documents, which were first mentioned by Apple Insider, is described as a head-mounted display system that can be physically coupled with a handheld portable electronic device.
The patent -- US Patent No 8,957,835 -- was filed with the USPTO by Apple in September 2008, and granted on February 17, 2015.
The device, according to the patent documents, is: "A head-mounted device that is worn on a user's head and configured to integrate with a removable portable electronic device.
"For example, a user may couple a personal electronic device, such as the iPod ... available from Apple Inc of Cupertino, Calif, or the iPhone ... also available from Apple Inc of Cupertino, Calif, to the head-mounted device via a cable or wire," the documents said.
The accompanying images in the patent documents clearly indicate that the proposed VR headset would be designed to accept the insertion of an iPhone via the side of the unit, providing the basis of an electronic screen for the wearer.
Given that arch-rival Samsung, along with Google and Microsoft, have all either revealed or released virtual-reality headgear, it appears that Apple is now getting ready to develop its own equipment in the field.
In fact, Apple's design is not dissimilar to the Google Cardboard headset, which folds out to accommodate the insertion of a smartphone, or Samsung's Gear VR headset, which is also designed to fit a smartphone. In both cases, the inserted smartphone provides the basis for the electronic display.
However, the patent documents' abstract left the device's feature set open to the development of further functionality.
"Each device may be allowed to extend its features and/or services to the other device for the purpose of enhancing, increasing, and/or eliminating redundant functions between the head-mounted device and the portable electronic device," the documents said.
Apple was granted a patent by the USPTO in July last year for designs of a smartwatch device, dubbed iTime in the documents.
While initial reports following the release of the patent designs suggested that Apple's anticipated "iWatch" device could be introduced as early as September, it now looks like it will be in stores by the end of April this year -- or about nine months following the patent grant.
The granting of a patent for Apple's VR headset device follows comments by the company's chief designer Jony Ive to The New Yorker that when he first saw Google's Glass headset device, it was evident to him that the face was "the wrong place" for such a device.