This past October, Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed his interest in augmented reality to Buzzfeed News. Naturally, the Internet went crazy. In-depth speculations and rumors have been spreading from tech blog to tech blog (this one included).
Is Apple augmented reality around the corner?
Ever since Google and Microsoft released their respective VR and AR headsets, Apple lovers have been waiting expectantly for the company to make a move. Cook’s statement is a promising hint at what’s to come: “Augmented reality will take some time to get right, but I do think that it’s profound.” The CEO favors AR over VR because of its potential to enhance real-world human connections.
Apple is known for keeping product plans low-key until a release date approaches. So far, all that’s been confirmed is that Cook is a fan of augmented reality, but the company’s recent acquisitions could be indicators of AR plans. Mac Rumors has an in-depth report on AR speculations, which includes these Apple-owned companies.
Remember Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox One? That’s all PrimeSense. Apple purchased the company in 2013, but its technology seems more relevant now than ever. An alternate reality product would depend on PrimeSense’s 3D body-sensing tools to detect motion and map out its environment.
Apple acquired Metaio in May 2015. The AR startup’s technology was used in Berlin to help visitors visualize the Berlin Wall—how cool is that?! Basically, Metaio creates visual scenarios, another essential aspect of AR. As Mac Rumors points out, this would be particularly helpful for an app like Maps.
Also acquired in 2015, Faceshift was previously used in animation and game design studios. The technology is able to recognize and translate facial expressions to animated characters. Faceshift was working on a product for Skype that would allow users to transform in real-time; think sophisticated Snapchat filter.
Mac Rumors also discusses a similar face-recognition technology named Emotient, which Apple bought at the start of 2016. The companies have a lot to offer Apple in terms of AR; possibilities include FaceTime integration and, of course, customizable gaming.
Flyby created an app for attaching messages to objects and places. For example, one could scan a restaurant and write a review for hungry passerby to read. The technology’s ability to recognize and understand objects would be valuable to Apple’s AR pursuits, and could build on existing iPhone features. Flyby was also acquired in 2016.
While these acquisitions could be used for other, non-AR purposes, it seems pretty clear what Apple’s been up to. Keep an eye out for the company’s other big purchases in the coming months!