Apple hires HoloLens engineer for its own AR project

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Apple is assembling an AR team to take on HoloLens.
Apple is assembling an AR team to take on HoloLens.
Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft’s new HoloLens project has shown the tech world where the future of augmented reality might lead, and according to a Wall Street analyst, Apple is making moves to catch up with its own AR product.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster reports that Apple has poached Microsoft’s lead HoloLens audio engineer — and that there are other signs Cupertino is assembling an AR team.

“Based on recent acquisitions of augmented reality companies, hiring of a key Microsoft HoloLens employee, and conversations with industry contacts within the virtual and augmented reality spaces, we believe Apple has a team exploring the AR space,” Munster said in a note to clients today.

Before working on electrical and acoustic engineering for Microsoft’s groundbreaking wearable, Nick Thompson worked at Apple for nearly seven years as a CPU software and audio engineer on the Mac team. His current LinkedIn status shows that he left Microsoft in July and has been working as an engineer at Apple for the last two months.

Munster also notes that Apple acquired AR software company Metaio in March 2015. Metaio owns 171 patents on AR tech. Apple purchased the company that designed the first Xbox Kinect sensors for Microsoft, PrimeSense, back in 2013.

Apple posted job listings earlier this year looking to hire experts in the virtual- and augmented-reality industries.

What Apple’s working on remains unclear, though. It could be that the company wants to add AR features to iOS in the near future, while also working on a new type of wearable to take on HoloLens and Google Glass 2.0, which is being designed by former Apple engineer Tony Fadell.