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Apple's augmented reality team includes vets from Dolby, Oculus & more - report

Although Apple's rumored augmented reality glasses may be a distant prospect, a report said on Monday, Apple is making AR technology a priority and has assembled a high-profile team for the effort.

A simulation of Microsoft's HoloLens AR glasses in action.

A simulation of Microsoft's HoloLens AR glasses in action.


At the head of the team is Mike Rockwell, who before joining Apple in 2015 was in charge of hardware and new technologies groups at Dolby, Bloomberg indicated, citing sources. Rockwell allegedly reports to Dan Riccio, senior VP of Hardware Engineering.

In spring of 2016 Apple assigned two other prominent people to Rockwell, namely Fletcher Rothkopf —one of those in charge of designing the original Apple Watch —and Tomlinson Holman, best known as the creator of the THX audio standard.

Other people involved are said to include Cody White, a former lead engineer on Amazon's Lumberyard game engine, and Duncan McRoberts, previously a director of software development at Meta, a firm that makes high-end AR glasses. Notably, Rockwell once advised Meta, in which Dolby has a stake.

Two more people with AR and VR experience include Yury Petrov, who once did research for Facebook's Oculus, and Avi Bar-Zeev, who worked on Microsoft's HoloLens AR gear as well as Google Earth.

Many of the remaining people on the project are said to include iPhone, camera, and optical lens engineers, as well as people able to source the raw materials for the glasses, and veterans of the 3D animation for movies. Indeed the company has reportedly opened an office in Wellington, New Zealand and hired several people away from Weta Digital, perhaps best known for its work on the "Lord of the Rings" films, as well as more recent productions like "The Jungle Book."

Apple is now said to have "hundreds" of engineers involved, some of them working on Apple's rumored AR features for upcoming iPhones. These are comparatively simple, but might for instance let people change the depth-of-field in photos on the fly, rotate in-scene objects, and insert Snapchat-style effects and virtual objects. Apple may or may not actually put these things into shipping products.

The Bloomberg sources reiterated that the AR glasses —which have rumored as coming as soon as 2017 —are only on the horizon. They are however expeted to connect wirelessly to an iPhone and display content like maps and movies.

Last year Apple CEO Tim Cook is said to have visited the offices of Magic Leap, an AR developer which has yet to ship anything but is known for its more realistic rendering of virtual objects. It has also hired at least one person from the company, Zeyu Li, who is now a "senior computer vision algorithm engineer."

To bolster its ranks and technologies, Apple has been acquiring some other small firms. These include AR software developer Metaio, and FlyBy Media, which made AR camera software.