Piper Jaffray: Apple has augmented reality R&D team, could inject AR devices with much needed style

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2015
Apple is supposedly making a long play for augmented reality systems that one analyst believes will potentially pivot on the company's current push into fashion, an initiative set to bear fruit with Apple Watch in April.


Sony's prototype augmented reality glasses.


Citing sources within the virtual and augmented reality industry, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said in a report published Wednesday that he believes Apple is fielding a small team tasked with experimental work in the AR space.

Consumer oriented AR systems are likely ten years out, the analyst said, but Apple's purported involvement suggests it is already plotting out the next evolution in computing. Munster suspects AR technology could be as transformative to the tech landscape as the smartphone.

Augmented reality can be explained as layer of digital information overlaid onto the physical world, a good example being Google Glass. Such technology can help augment everyday life in any number of ways, from providing instantly accessible navigation directions to displaying a recipe in the kitchen.

It is unclear what format or platform Apple is looking to implement -- glasses, headsets, transparent displays -- but the company's "evolving fashion advantage" could result in a product consumers actually want to wear.

Style is key to wide adoption, Munster said, adding that recent Apple hires from the world of fashion offer clues as to where the company is headed. Over the past year, Apple collected executives from fashion houses around the world, including SVP of Retail Angela Ahrendts (former CEO of Burberry), VP of Special Projects Paul Deneve (former YSL chief), director of marketing Marcela Aguilar (former GAP executive) and star designer Marc Newson.

If Apple manages to make a stylish AR device, assuming it plans to go the wearables route, it would be a huge advantage over present devices. At this stage, products range from bulky prototypes to awkward looking gear taken from the set of a sci-fi movie.


Apple patent illustrating an augmented reality iPhone mapping app.


Aside from wearables, another area of interest in the AR space is light field technology, which merges digital and real world objects through a collection of optics, displays, sensors and other intricate components. An example implementation could soon be revealed by secretive startup Magic Leap, as the firm owns patents that describe techniques of using light field tech to create extremely realistic, interactive three-dimensional images. Magic Leap recently closed a $524 million funding round led by Google.

Apple itself holds a variety of patents covering a wide gamut of augmented reality applications, including transparent displays, mobile mapping solutions and iPhone-powered virtual displays. One particularly interesting property details a smartphone that can identify physical objects in real time using computer vision.

Munster importantly notes augmented reality and virtual reality are not one in the same. Compared to AR, virtual reality is more immersive and in some cases completely replaces the physical world with an alternate universe, an extreme example being the world created in the movie "The Matrix." Video game developers have been working on virtual reality applications for decades, but only recently progressed to a stage where fairly convincing environments can be recreated with head-mounted equipment.

Among the frontrunners in head-tracking VR tech is Facebook-owned Oculus Rift, which is seeing competition from Samsung's Gear VR and Sony's Project Morpheus for PlayStation 4.

Whether Apple has a team dedicated to AR applications is at this point rumor, but job postings from February lend credence to Munster's claims. One ad sought a display systems engineer to work on hardware and software for virtual reality environments, while two others asked for AR/VR programmers for software and hardware engineering duties.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    He also belives Apple is going to be coming out with a tv in 2013

    Gene Munster amuses me. He reminds me of Rob Enderle in a way.
  • Reply 2 of 19
    rmb0037rmb0037 Posts: 142member
    Are those Sony glasses...real?...

    If this is the way technology is going consider me Amish.
  • Reply 3 of 19
    quambquamb Posts: 143member

    Apple, like any tech company, experiment with all kinds of ideas. Piper jaffray consistently throws obvious headlines out into the blogosphere time and time again as if they somehow have inside information. What a joke.

  • Reply 4 of 19
    peteopeteo Posts: 389member
    Magic leap just canceled a bunch of events and a Ted talk they were supposed to be giving this week. There is speculation that they are being acquired. Apple is on the list (along with Google)
  • Reply 5 of 19
    pfisherpfisher Posts: 758member
    MunsterTV
  • Reply 6 of 19
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,001member
    pfisher wrote: »
    MunsterTV

    Here's a gratuitous photo of my favorite Munster
    400
  • Reply 7 of 19
    All of the sudden, the %uF8FFWatch is turning WS analysts in fashion experts.
    Who's more stupid? Him, or his clients following his advice for years?
  • Reply 8 of 19
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    Gene Gene the Spinning Machine. He's really struggling to keep people paying attention to his fabulist nonsense.
  • Reply 9 of 19
    peteo wrote: »
    Magic leap just canceled a bunch of events and a Ted talk they were supposed to be giving this week. There is speculation that they are being acquired. Apple is on the list (along with Google)

    "I'll see Google's bid and raise with a piece of my liver..."
  • Reply 10 of 19
    I'm sure that Apple would design the most attractive possible AR device.

    I can't imagine it catching on, even so.
  • Reply 11 of 19

    From what I have read, Magic Leap's technology is quite compelling, but it seems a lot of VC funded tech companies are very good at hyping their tech, especially perhaps in the hardware space.

     

    Having said that, ML were to be acquired, I'd find it hard to imagine that Google would not offer them a price they wanted, especially if Google is a major initial investor. I just don't see how Apple could (or would want to) grab Magic Leap at what would be a hefty premium. A thousand nos for every yes.

  • Reply 12 of 19

    The general public would be much more likely to adopt VR glasses if:

     

    a) VR eye wear would look no different than other eye wear; due to battery and microprocessor constraints, that's many years away (10 years sounds about right to me)

     

    b) It is clear that the device could not record, i.e., be display only. In this instance there could be two models: a consumer model that does not record and a commercial version used in industrial settings that could record. The design of the piece would be readily identifiable as one or the other.

     

    c) They did not create a public nuisance.

     

    d) Were affordable-think $500 range.

     

    e) The company could clearly articulate the jobs to be done by such device.

     

    Google Glass got all of those things wrong, somewhat similar to the Segway debacle.

  • Reply 13 of 19

    Is this Apple's version of Nokia City Lens?

  • Reply 14 of 19
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Rmb0037 View Post



    Are those Sony glasses...real?...



    If this is the way technology is going consider me Amish.



    Those are real, however those are not Sony's Morpheus VR prototype.

  • Reply 15 of 19
    elroy6elroy6 Posts: 12member
    ". . . I can't imagine it [AR] catching on, even so."

    Sorry, but this is probably the worst prediction I've ever heard. : )
  • Reply 16 of 19
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Elroy6 View Post



    ". . . I can't imagine it [AR] catching on, even so."



    Sorry, but this is probably the worst prediction I've ever heard. : )

     

     

    Google Glass.

     

    I rest my case.

  • Reply 17 of 19
    elroy6elroy6 Posts: 12member

    Google Glass.

    I rest my case.

    Well, you'd better rouse your case, because Google Glasses were only the first crude prototype of what's to come. : )
  • Reply 18 of 19
    afrodriafrodri Posts: 190member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Benjamin Frost View Post

     

     

     

    Google Glass.

     

    I rest my case.


     

    AR does not have to be an intrusive, wearable device like Google Glass. It could just be an app on your phone which uses the existing camera and sensors (like in the figure in the article)

  • Reply 19 of 19
    artdentartdent Posts: 66member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    Such technology can help augment everyday life in any number of ways, from providing instantly accessible navigation directions to displaying a recipe in the kitchen.

     

    LOL - who knew recipe management was such a problem for mankind that we've been trying to develop computer solutions for almost 40 years!

     

     

Sign In or Register to comment.