Apple among the tech giants snapping up VFX experts to work on AR

By

Apple Glass concept from the Hacker 34.
Apple is one of many tech companies trying to build AR glasses.
Photo: the Hacker 34

Apple TV+ isn’t the only department within Apple that’s snapping up Hollywood talent. According to a new report by the Wall Street Journal, Apple is among the tech giants  recruiting top movie industry VFX experts and technology to help its AR and VR ambitions.

The report gives one example of former visual effects talent as Hao Li. While Li is not working at Apple, he was the co-developer of digital character technology whose work was acquired by Apple. It was then used as the basis for its Animoji tech.

The WSJ writes that, “Some of his collaborators on the project started working at Apple shortly after the sale.”

Apple and others embracing AR

It is not just Apple that’s hiring special effects experts. The report also names Google and Facebook as some of the companies looking to acqui-hire talent. It’s part of a trend in the industry. While Hollywood’s visual effects industry has declined in remuneration for talent, the AR and VR industries are booming. Between 2020 and 2023, consultant company Accenture expects that spending on this technology will increase from the current $21 billion to $121 billion. The report notes that:

“Silicon Valley’s recruitment of artists and engineers who built some of Hollywood’s most memorable digital effects reflects the view that mass-user adoption of AR and VR platforms depends on creating lifelike experiences. …

In recent years, former visual effects professionals have traded careers working for top Hollywood firms like Industrial Light & Magic (whose credits include the Star Wars films), Digital Domain (Marvel) and Weta Digital (Lord of the Rings, Jumanji: The Next Level) in favor of often higher-paying gigs at tech companies developing AR and VR applications and hardware.”

Beyond Hollywood: Apple’s AR ambitions

Apple has long been rumored to be working on an AR headset. According to Apple reporter Mark Gurman, the company is working on two such devices. One of these will combine the “best of” VR and AR in a headset that’s capable of overlaying AR images. The second is “a lightweight pair of glasses using AR only.” In a June Bloomberg report, Gurman wrote that Apple could announce the first headset in 2021. It might then release it the year after that. Meanwhile, Apple’s AR glasses will reportedly arrive “by 2023” at the earliest.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has frequently talked up AR as one of the most exciting technologies currently in development.

Source: Wall Street Journal