Apple has built a team combining hardware and software veterans to bring its “next big thing” to the masses: augmented reality. You may recall that Tim Cook has already stressed why Apple prefers augmented reality to virtual reality, but now Bloomberg is reporting that this is what keeps Apple engineers busy in an effort to “dominate the next-generation of gadgetry and keep people wedded to its ecosystem”.
Apple is also working on several AR products, including digital spectacles, but the AR feature could be part of the iPhone sooner than any of the other projects materialize. The Apple AR team includes Mike Rockwell, who previously led the hardware and new technologies groups at Dolby. Apple recruited him in 2015.
Rockwell runs the main AR team and reports to Dan Riccio. The team also includes Fletcher Rothkopf, who helped lead the team that designed the Apple Watch; and Tomlinson Holman, who created THX, the audio standard made popular by LucasFilm. The company has also hired Duncan McRoberts, Meta’s former director of software development; Yury Petrov, a former Oculus researcher; and Avi Bar-Zeev, who worked on the HoloLens and Google Earth.
And you may recall that Apple has also acquired Metaio, a company which developed AR software, and also FlyBy Media, which makes AR-related camera software. Apple has also expressed interest in Magic Leap’s AR technology.
Finally, the Bloomberg article says hundreds of engineers are working on Apple’s AR efforts, including some on the iPhone camera team.
One of the features Apple is exploring is the ability to take a picture and then change the depth of the photograph or the depth of specific objects in the picture later; another would isolate an object in the image, such as a person’s head, and allow it to be tilted 180 degrees. A different feature in development would use augmented reality to place virtual effects and objects on a person, much the way Snapchat works.
You can read the full Bloomberg report here.