One new addition to Apple's team has got many people involved in augmented reality (AR) research very excited. News just broke that the Cupertino-based tech giant hired Jeff Norris, a former NASA employee who worked on numerous AR related projects, to help Apple's AR project division.
Norris apparently joined Apple a year ago, but news reports of his involvement with the Apple team only surfaced this April. Although Apple hasn't released an official statement on Norris' involvement with the company's AR team, most reporters believe Norris joined a team headed by Mike Rockwell. For those who don't know, Rockwell actually served as the executive vice president at Dolby Labs and now works as an executive in Apple's hardware division.
We can only guess what Norris will contribute to the Apple team by taking a look at a few of his innovations at NASA. First off, Norris was instrumental in the Mars 2020 rover project, especially in terms of developing a sophisticated mixed reality simulator. While Norris was working as the Mission Operations Innovation chief, he helped create a HoloLens AR experience that put users right next to Buzz Aldrin on a simulation of Mars. Norris' third major NASA project was called Sidekick, which was designed to help astronauts send holographic images from space to scientists on earth.
Although news of Norris' appointment is a big deal for Apple's AR department, this isn't the first time Apple has hired a major AR expert. Indeed, not long ago Apple hired the former Microsoft employee Doug Bowman. Bowman, who also teaches computer science at Virginia Tech, is well known for his contributions to 3D user interface in both virtual reality (VR) and AR softwares. Before working for Apple, Bowman worked closely on Microsoft's HoloLens team.
Many tech critics have claimed that Apple has been seriously working on AR technology since at least 2016. Some people in the tech industry believe Apple might be developing AR glasses that would be able to seamlessly connect with iPhones and display images from the phone right in front of a user's' eyes.
Tim Cook, Apple's current CEO, hasn't said anything specific on the company's involvement with AR. However, Cook has said in the past that he was very excited by the innovations in the AR industry. In a recent conference call, Cook said he puts AR innovation at the top of Apple's itinerary "for the long run."
Of course, Apple isn't the only major tech company getting involved in the world of AR. Just a few other major players in this space include Snapchat, Facebook, and Google. A few Apple executives actually hinted at developing strategies to compete in the AR wearables market against Snapchat's Spectacles.
It's well known that Apple keeps its product development news very secretive. Most tech experts believe we won't hear about Apple's AR innovations until at least 2018.
Ronald Wayne, Steve Wozniak, and Steve Jobs founded Apple in 1976 as a personal computer company. Today, Apple is the largest tech company in the world and has almost 500 stores in 17 countries. Apple is traded on the NASDAQ under the ticker AAPL.