Apple reportedly has ‘hundreds of engineers’ working on AR projects

Apple has built an augmented reality (AR) team of hundreds of engineers “combining the strengths of its hardware and software veterans with the expertise of talented outsiders” and is “very serious about AR,” reports Bloomberg, quoting unnamed “people with knowledge of the company’s plans.”

Run by a former Dolby Laboratories executive (Mark Rockwell), the group purportedly 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.” Among them,: Cody White, former lead engineer of Amazon's Lumberyard virtual reality platform; Duncan McRoberts, Meta's former director of software development; Yury Petrov, a former Oculus researcher; and Avi Bar-Zeev, who worked on the HoloLens and Google Earth. Apple has rounded out the team with iPhone, camera and optical lens engineers. 

Bloomberg says the Cupertino, California-based company is 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 the glasses — which I’ve dubbed “iGlasses” -- are a ways off, AR features could show up in the iPhone sooner, the article adds.

Bloomberg says 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 article adds.

Apple is more interested in AR than virtual reality (VR), because the former connects people whereas the latter is often an isolating experience involving a headset that renders the user blind to the real world.

Apple has applied for multiple patents regarding AR and scooped up some AR-related companies. In 2015, the tech giant purchased Metaio, a company makes Metaio Creator, an AR authoring tool. Metaio says it allows for quick and easy creation and deployment of AR scenarios that are based on the latest tracking technologies. 

In 2013, Apple bought PrimeSense, an Israeli maker of chips that enable three-dimensional (3D) machine vision. The chip's 3D sensors are designed to enable nature interaction between people and devices and between devices and their surroundings. Its machine vision products map out 3D environments and track movements of bodies, faces and facial expressions.