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Apple’s iPhone 8 may incorporate some next-level augmented reality features

Published Nov 17th, 2016 9:00AM EST
iPhone 8 Camera
Image: Apple

Coming hot on the heels of a report that Apple is currently exploring the idea of developing smart glasses, Business Insider reports that Apple is diligently working on a new iPhone feature that will see the company integrate augmented reality technology into the iPhone 8 camera app.

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According to the report, the way Apple envisions implementing augmented reality into the iPhone is multi-faceted. For instance, Apple envisions iPhone users being able to point their cameras at any number of objects and have the device itself recognize what’s in frame. As another example, Apple might want to build in functionality that would allow the iPhone camera to recognize and manipulate faces.

While the above functionality isn’t new in and of itself (a number of third-party apps like MSQRD already boast these features), having it integrated directly into the iPhone 8 camera is intriguing.

Notably, Apple’s vision for augmented reality only begins with the iPhone 8 camera, with much larger plans in store later on down the line.

Eventually, the person said, after the AR features are built into the iPhone camera app, Apple will release the technology behind them as an SDK for app developers, like it did with its Touch ID fingerprint sensor. At that point, Apple will become a competitor to companies like Vuforia and Blippar.

What’s more, Business Insider’s own sources corroborate the aforementioned rumor that points to Apple releasing a pair of smart glasses as early as 2018.

Adding more fuel to the fire, it’s no secret that Apple has made a number of augmented reality acquisitions and hires over the past few months. This past September, for example, Apple hired Zeyu Li, a vision algorithm engineer who previously worked at Magic Leap, an augmented reality-centric startup. Further, Apple a few months back also hired research scientist Yury Petrov who previously spent nearly three years working on the Occulus VR.

Also joining the mix at Apple is John Border, the former head of engineering at the Osterhout Design Group. There, Border worked on “imaging systems development for head mounted displays.” As for what he’s doing at Apple, Border’s LinkedIn profile indicates that he’s a “Senior optics manufacturing exploration engineer.”

Interestingly, Business Insider references that the Osterhout Design Group already sells a pair of smart glasses, a demo of which can be viewed below.

As for the entirety of Apple’s AR team, the following Financial Times report from last year is worth highlighting.

The secret research unit includes hundreds of staff from a series of carefully targeted acquisitions, as well as employees poached from companies that are working on next-generation headset technologies including Microsoft and camera start-up Lytro, according to people familiar with the initiative.

The company’s latest acquisition in the area is Flyby Media, an augmented reality start-up that uses let mobile devices “see” the world around them. Fly-by’s team worked closely with Google in developing software for its 3D positioning technology Project Tango.

When there’s smoke there’s usually fire, and it’s increasingly starting to look like Apple’s plans in the AR space may see the light of day sooner rather than later.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.