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Is Augmented Reality iPhone’s Next Big Thing? Here Are The Signs Apple Is On It

20 March 2017, 9:22 pm EDT By Des Luna Tech Times
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Augmented reality is slowly reaching ordinary consumers and companies are beginning to capitalize on this. Apple, for one, seems to be seriously working on its own AR tech based on recent business moves.  ( Oyundari Zorigtbaatar | Wikimedia Commons )

Augmented reality will soon be part of everyday life, if we are to believe Tim Cook.

Cook, Apple's CEO, is excited about the future of augmented reality and Apple together. He is psyched that the company is exerting its technological resources to research, develop, and apply AR technology on Apple products, particularly its flagship iPhone. If that happens, then AR can be Apple's "next big thing."

While still in infancy, AR is not a new tech. Popular Pokémon GO is an application of AR on gaming. Microsoft has its eyes on mixed reality, the combo of augmented reality and virtual reality, while Google has its Google Glass.

Recruiting The Best Team

Earlier last year, Cook said that augmented reality will become very much a part of users' lives it's "almost like eating three meals a day." He did admit there are still technological limitations today, so the future may not come sooner than everyone wants.

However, every challenge is an opportunity. According to a report, like what it did with Apple Watch, Apple is assembling a multi-disciplinary team both from inside and outside the company to work on its AR project. There are hundreds of engineers involved, including those on the iPhone camera team who are focusing on coming up with AR-related iPhone features.

In 2015, Apple welcomed Mike Rockwell, who once oversaw Dolby's hardware and new tech groups. He also consulted for Meta, a company that worked on $950 AR glasses. At Apple, Rockwell is now taking lead of the main AR team. He reports to Dan Riccio, big boss of iPhone and iPad hardware engineering. Peers call Rockwell a "sharp guy" who can put a team to keep the AR project running.

Apple brought to Rockwell's team people with expertise on 3D production, wearable tech, and sound engineering. Joining Rockwell are tech wizards Fletcher Rothkopf from Apple Watch and Tomlinson Holman, creator of audio standard THX.

Also working on the AR project team are Cody White, former engineer for Amazon Lumberyard (a VR platform); Yury Petrov, who worked on Oculus; and Avi Bar-Zeev, who was part of HoloLens and Google Earth. Apple also hired talents from Weta Digital, the special effects shop that made the SFX for films like Lord of the Rings, Avatar, and King Kong.

Making Business Moves

To boost its AR research, Apple made some "tactical acquisitions." In 2015, it bought Metaio, an AR software developer. Apple also acquired FlyBy Media, a company that makes AR-related software for cameras.

Apple AR may first find its way working as part of the iPhone ecosystem. The AR technology can work with the iPhone camera, with features like objects overlapping a person's face like Snapchat via depth sensing. Or the camera can take a photo then change the depth of the image or isolate an object.

Apple may also go the way of the ill-fated Google Glass in 2014, but given the technical limitations of this wearable such as content, apps, games, and services, this idea may remain on the drawing board for some time.

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