Apple Hires Away Microsoft HoloLens Audio Engineer

Apple may be working on its own augmented reality projects, Piper Jaffray analyst Travis Jakel suggests. He noticed that Apple has hired away the lead audio engineer for Microsoft’s HoloLends AR project: Nick Thompson’s LinkedIn page has been updated recently, and, since July this year, he has been an engineer at Apple.

Nick Thompson

Actually, Thompson has returned to Apple: Before joining Microsoft as the HoloLens Audio Hardware Engineering Lead in September 2012, he worked at Apple as the senior engineering manager of the company’s CPU Software, Audio division. According to his LinkedIn profile, he was in charge of the design, implementation, and execution of built-in audio systems for Macs and the first Apple TV set-top box, as noted by AppleInsider.

As a result, another Piper Jaffray analyst, Gene Munster, sent out a note to investors – obtained by AppleInsider – pointing to this new hire as evidence of Apple’s AR projects.

“We believe AR audio is often thought of as not important or secondary to the experience, however, we believe positional audio is what sells the experience and convinces the user there is a real object in front of you or behind you,” Munster wrote. “The ability to re-create sound coming from a distinct location and changes based on proximity and direction of the object should not be overlooked.”

He was the first to report that Apple had a small team doing experimental work in the AR field. Fact is, if we look back over Apple’s recent company acquisitions, we find further evidence for such a project: The iPhone maker acquired German augmented reality firm Metaio just recently, in May. Also, it acquired PrimeSense, a company that designed hardware powering Microsoft’s first-generation Kinect sensor.

Munster also highlights some potential uses of augmented reality: Apple could use it for indoor navigation and a telepresence call, he writes. What seems to be certain to the analyst is that Apple is “preparing for the next evolution of computing.”