HoloLens creator leaves Apple AR headset team

By

With HoloLens, Microsoft enters the age of holographic computing. Photo: Microsoft
There’s been a slight setback at Apple’s secret team creating augmented reality smartglasses, like the ones being demonstrated here.
Photo: Microsoft

One of the designers of Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality (AR) smartglasses has left Apple.

Although exactly what Avi Bar-Zeev was working on is a secret, it was almost certainly a project to develop Apple’s own AR glasses.

A history in augmented reality

 While working for Microsoft in 2010, Bar-Zeev developed the HoloLens “initial concept, first demos and architecture,” according to his LinkedIn profile.

HoloLens is a headset that overlays computer-generated images on the real world to create what most people call augmented reality.  It launched back in 2016 for $5,000 and is currently listed as Out of Stock on the Microsoft website.

After leaving Microsoft and spending almost four years at Amazon, Bar-Zeev was hired at Apple in mid-2016. His job description was, according to LinkedIn:

“Lead experience prototyping (XP) team for a new effort. Developed key prototypes to rapidly prove concepts, explore, educate and build support. Developed user stories and technical requirements for the long-term roadmap, while working across design and engineering to ensure success.”

This makes no mention of augment reality hardware, just “a new effort.” Still, it’s been widely assumed he was on Apple’s AR project.

But not any more. His LinkedIn profile indicates he stopped working for the iPhone maker last month.  Bar-Zeev told Variety “I left my full-time position at Apple in January. I had the best exit one can imagine. I have only nice things to say about Apple and won’t comment on any specific product plans.”

Apple and AR

Apple is openly working on augmented reality in general. Its ARKit offers developers the ability to create AR applications. Version 2.0 of this tool, which debuted in iOS 12, offers shared experiences, a fancy way of saying that two people playing the same AR game can look at the same virtual objects. 

Beyond iOS software, Apple supposedly  has over 100 engineers exploring both augmented reality and virtual reality headsets. It’s this pert of the project that’s going on behind closed doors, and without Bar-Zeev’s help.