Apple has reportedly embarked on an ambitious bid to bring the augmented reality (AR) technology to the masses - an effort Apple CEO Tim Cook see as the best way for the company to dominate the next generation of gadgetry.
According to a Bloomberg report, Apple has built a team combining the strengths of its hardware and software veterans with the expertise of talented outsiders. Run by a former Dolby Laboratories executive, the group includes engineers who worked on the Oculus and HoloLens virtual reality headsets sold by Facebook and Microsoft as well as digital-effects wizards from Hollywood. Apple has also acquired several small firms with knowledge of AR hardware, 3D gaming and virtual reality software.
Apple declined to comment.
Apple is reprortedly working on several AR products, including digital spectacles that could connect wirelessly to an iPhone and beam content-movies, maps and more-to the wearer.
While virtual reality (VR) gets more attention because it completely immerses users in an artificial world and has an obvious attraction for gamers, augmented reality could be an easier sell because it's less intrusive. Referring to VR headsets, Cook last year said he thought few people will want to be "enclosed in something."
Engineers are now devoted to the cause, including some on the iPhone camera team who are working on AR-related features for the iPhone, according to Bloomberg. One of the features Apple is exploring is the ability to take a picture and then change the depth of the photograph or the depth of specific objects in the picture later; another would isolate an object in the image, such as a person's head, and allow it to be tilted 180 degrees. A different feature in development would use augmented reality to place virtual effects and objects on a person, much the way Snapchat works. The iPhone camera features would probably rely on a technology known as depth sensing and use algorithms created by PrimeSense, an Israeli company acquired in 2013. Apple may choose to not roll out these features, but such additions are an up-and-coming trend in the phone business.
The next step for Apple could be AR-enhanced glasses.