Growing in stature among the many iPhone 8 (or iPhone X) rumors is that Apple might bring augmented reality to iOS 11 this summer and to its 10th anniversary iPhone this coming fall. After all, CEO Tim Cook has absolutely gushed about AR, even saying it will become an essential part of your daily life.
A Bloomberg report this week that details the personnel hires, company buyouts and other efforts underway at Apple involving AR is fueling speculation that big doings are indeed afoot. Apple — which declined to comment for Bloomberg — has hired those who have worked on technologies such as Oculus, HoloLens and THX audio, and has a cross-departmental group of hundreds of engineers on the project, the report says. Gene Munster, a longtime Apple watcher who recently formed Loup Ventures to invest in companies focused in areas such as AR, VR and robotics, tells Bloomberg that AR devices could even someday replace iPhones.
While fully immersive virtual reality has grabbed most of the early glory, the more nuanced approach of AR will likely be a bigger winner, according to industry watchers like IDC’s Tom Mainelli, who spoke at the market research firm’s Directions conference earlier this month in Boston
“As excited as I am about VR, I think AR is the real game changer,” Mainelli says, in that AR adds pertinent information to the reality we are already in and encourages more interaction with those around us.
While the Bloomberg piece doesn’t specify a timeframe for Apple’s AR technology going into production, Mainelli expects the next major iPhone to support AR. “Apple doesn’t really tell anybody what they’re going to do, but based on their acquisitions and based on the fact that [CEO] Tim Cook can’t stop talking about augmented reality makes me think that Apple sees it as a huge opportunity,” he says.
There’s plenty of documented proof of Apple’s interest in AR as well if you dive into the patents it has applied for and received, as the Patently Apple blog has done since 2009. “One of the apps that Apple is apparently working on involves PrimeSense technology which would allow users to take a photo and then at a later time add different levels of 3D depth to it so as to change the focal points of the photo to emphasize different items or people within the photo, according to Patently Apple (PrimeSense was an Israeli company bought by Apple in 2013).
What might still be a ways off: AR glasses from Apple. But it sounds like they’re coming, too.