Apple snags top AR talent for work on new wearable

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The Magic Toolbar could be a baby step toward augmented reality.
Augmented reality could transform the use of Apple products.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple’s massive team of hardware and software engineers working on augmented reality (AR) includes former employees from Dolby Laboratories, Oculus and HoloLens, alongside special effects folks from Hollywood.

According to a new report, Apple now has hundreds of engineers working on the project, which aims to introduce AR features first to the iPhone, and then possibly later for a standalone headset.

The Bloomberg article describes several possible applications for augmented reality tech, including the ability to take a photo and then change its depth or isolate certain images within it. Another possible use-case would allow users to use AR to put virtual effects and objects onto a person, like a next-gen Photo Booth.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard reports that the iPhone camera could be one of the first use-cases for AR. Last year, a separate report claimed that a secret team of Apple employees are busy working on a project that will turn iPhone cameras everywhere into a portal for augmented reality, using technology from several startups Apple has acquired.

The more intriguing suggestion, however, is that Apple will look to put its own spin on the (commercially) failed Google Glass project, by launching a standalone wearable of its own that wouldn’t be limited to a future feature on the iPhone.

Interestingly, the report likens the team that Apple has assembled to the R&D team who were busy researching the Apple Watch in its early stages. The team is being run by a former Dolby Laboratories executive, Mike Rockwell, who reports to Apple senior VP of Hardware Engineering Dan Riccio.

Given that Apple seems to be interested in everything from electric cars to Amazon Echo-style standalone Siri speakers, it could be a while before we see this come to fruition — if, indeed, it ever does. But it’s definitely intriguing, right?

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  • Richard Ludwig

    Apple is pretty late to the game in this one.
    There’s plenty of room for new development, etc. but Microsoft has a HUGE head-start with Hololens. By creating the Windows Mixed Reality platform, they’re building a platform for VR/AR and getting a lot of hardware and software developers together.

    Having said that, Apple has shown it can come in late and still make a better product, so we’ll see.

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