Apple Planning to Venture into AR/VR?

Tim Cook has talked about a lot of technologies since he became the chief executive of Apple Inc. in 2011. Driverless cars, Artificial intelligence, etc. But no technology has nearly excited Cook as much as augmented reality, which overlays pictures, videos and video games on the live world.

Investors who are anxiously waiting for Apple’s next big game changing plan will be utterly joyed to know that Cook has gotten very serious about AR. People who know about Apple’s plans tell that Apple has taken up a venture to bring the tech to the masses.

Apple has come up with a team which combines the strengths of its hardware and software specialists with the talent of various outsiders. Some reports from a former Dolby labs executive tell that this special new team includes digital experts from Hollywood and engineers that have previously worked on some other big projects with big companies like Oculus and HoloLens VR headsets. Small firms with knowledge of AR hardware have also been acquired by Apple.

As it has been reported previously by Bloomberg that Apple is currently on a number of AR products, one of Apple’s ongoing projects is unique digital glasses that can connect wirelessly to an iPhone and beam content. The spectacles might take some time but the AR features could be provided in the iPhone sooner.

It’s a big moment for Apple to introduce AR from their side. Augmented Reality is the less widely relative of VR (virtual Reality).  VR is more widely known because it takes its users to an artificial world and is hence more popular with gamers. According to Apple’s executives, AR might be an easier sale and more successful in the market because it’s less intrusive.

No doubt that creating an AR product will be a hard task even for a big company known for its slim and smart devices. Recent tries on the AR glasses didn’t yield the devices they hoped for, some were either underpowered and some were quite bulky and large. The Giant of technology, Apple, will have to make it work and try harder and launch a small and powerful device.

Applying AR technology to the iPhone won’t be a big deal, building glasses will be a milestone. The glasses similar to the watch might be tethered to the iPhone. But if there are less useful apps, games, features, and media content of interest on the glasses, then why would anyone want to buy them? The new AR glasses may require a new OS or even a new chip. Plus, Apple will have to keep the budget of the glasses in control to make it cheap enough for the market to afford.

Like this new team, Apple has put together, while Apple was coming up with the watch, they put together a multi-talented team. In 2015, Mike Rockwell was recruited by Apple who was previously running the hardware and new technologies groups at Dolby labs. Rockwell is now running Apple’s AR team.

To show how serious Apple is about bringing the AR products to the market, Apple appointed many of its best-talented hardware and software specialists to Rockwell’s team. Fletcher Rothkopf who helped in leading the team that created the Apple Watch, and Tomlinson Holman, who created THX (audio standard made popular by LucasFilms) were also included in the team.

People with expertise in various fields like 3D video prod to wearable hardware have also been recruited by Apple among a lot of well-known people from the related fields. Apple has sequenced the team with iPhone, camera and optical lens engineers.

Apart from hiring people, Apple has also been busy making strategic acquisitions. In 2015 Metaio (which developed AR software) was acquired by Apple. Metaio’s former CEO Thomas Alt is now working on Apple’s strategic deals team. It is the team which decides about which technologies are worth investing in. In 2016 Apple also acquired FlyBy Media, a company which specializes in developing AR related camera software.

A large number of Apple’s engineers are working on this project, the iPhone camera team is also working on this project to bring AR related features to the iPhone, as told by one of Apple’s representative. One of the many features Apple is currently working on is the ability to capture an image and changing the depth of that image or changing the depth of certain objects in that image.  Another feature is isolating an object in the image. The feature to apply virtual effects on an object or a person, similar to snapchat but using AR is also being developed at Apple Inc. The iPhone camera features will most probably use depth sensing and algorithms developed by PrimeSense.

The AR-spectacles are likely to take some time to hit the markets, people report. Perfecting the design and technology of the glasses will be the key, no doubt. Selling wearables is hard and Apple’s first attempt in the category has already failed in the past instead of becoming a mainstream hit. Still, Apple is very optimistic about its new projects, and like in the past apple has always let others go first and then dominated the market with their new and sleek designs and technologies. Let’s see what Apple brings in stores for its users and if Apple again dominates the market and stays at the top.

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