It's already been established that Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, is really pumped for augmented reality
, as he's previously gone on record as saying his company plans to heavily invest in the technology in the long run. And it seems that wasn't just empty talk, either, as, according to a Bloomberg
report, "hundreds of engineers are now devoted to the cause" of bringing AR to Apple's products, a result of the company carefully picking up talent from around the world for several years now.
The company is reportedly heavily investing into what it believes is its new big frontier, hiring former Oculus and Microsoft engineers, "digital effects wizards" from Hollywood, as well as appointing Mike Rockwell, an ex-Dolby Laboratories executive, as the division's head. And that's just the start – for a couple of years Apple has been buying out small companies in the business, such as Metaio, an AR software development studio, FlyBy Media, a maker of AR-related camera software, PrimeSense, which designed a number of depth-sensing camera algorithms, and more.
Apple's AR glasses are all but guaranteed, but will the average consumer care?
But how could this translate into actual products a consumer can buy? We've previously heard rumors of the company working on its own special-purpose AR glasses
, but this could prove to be a large and complicated endeavor – for an example of how warm the public reacts to this particular application of the technology, look no further than Google Glass
, a product which took a nosedive from being hyped to widely hated faster than you can say "I do not consent to be filmed."
But it's not just glasses, as Apple is also working on some sort of AR implementation for its iPhone line, too, which is an easy decision for the company if it plans to go all-in on the tech. And it's not that far-fetched, either: Google, too, tried this before with its Tango platform
, which, while technically alive, has been far from an immediate success, though it's also still in its infancy, which makes some of its technical problems and lack of popularity excusable.
Concepts for an AR-enabled iPhone already exist
Several different iPhone tech demos have been produced, including ones allowing for Lytro-style after-shot refocusing, 3D object scanning, and seamless virtual object placing in real space (again, just like Google's Tango). However, we imagine those are more proof-of-concepts than they are serious product applications. Apple may eventually release them to the public, but even if it does, they'll likely be little more than toys to get users hooked on the new tech.
In any case, we most likely have some time before we get to see what Apple is cooking up, as, even if the company does incorporate its AR tech into this year's smartphone offerings, which is a small but real possibility, it will probably offer the bare minimum in regards to features, more of a statement of intent to corner the market than an actual, full-fledged product. Plus, we still have a few months until we get any sort of official announcement, so for now we advise exercising cautious optimism.