Apple poaches lead Microsoft HoloLens audio engineer, seen as boost for augmented reality research

Posted:
in General Discussion edited September 2015
The lead audio engineer for Microsoft's HoloLens augmented reality project has been hired away by Apple, fueling speculation that the iPhone maker could be working on an AR project of its own.


Source: Microsoft


Analyst Travis Jakel of Piper Jaffray found that Nick Thompson's LinkedIn page now lists him as an engineer at Apple, where he started work in July. Prior to that, he had a few stints at Microsoft, most recently where he served as the HoloLens Audio Hardware Engineering Lead from September of 2012.

Thompson previously had a noteworthy tenure --?nearly 7 years --?at Apple, where he served as the senior engineering manager of the company's CPU Software, Audio division. His profile reveals he was responsible for the design, implementation and execution of built-in audio systems for Mac products and the first-generation Apple TV.

To analyst Gene Munster, Apple's re-recruitment of Thompson post-HoloLens experience could be further evidence that the company likely has an internal team working on potential augmented reality projects. His thoughts were revealed in a research note to investors this week, a copy of which was provided to AppleInsider.

"We believe AR audio is often thought of as not important or secondary to the experience, however, we believe positional audio is what sells the experience and convinces the user there is a real object in front of you or behind you," Munster wrote. "The ability to re-create sound coming from a distinct location and changes based on proximity and direction of the object should not be overlooked."

Munster was first to report in March that sources told him Apple has a small team tasked with experimental work in the field of AR. It's been speculated that AR is a long-term project for Apple in the consumer space.


Apple patent illustrating an augmented reality iPhone mapping app.


Augmented reality is a layer of digital information overlaid onto the physical world, allowing information such as instantly accessible navigation directions in the user's field of view. The most well-known implementation of AR is Google Glass.

Further supporting Munster's claims are Apple's acquisition of German augmented reality firm Metaio, which occurred in May of this year. It's believed the Metaio purchase could be related to Apple's acquisition of PrimeSense, a company that created hardware capable of "seeing" in three dimensions, most notably powering Microsoft's first-generation Kinect sensor.

Before being acquired by Apple, Metaio was so prevalent in the augmented reality space that PatentVue estimates it was the 11th largest patent holder in that field.

For Munster, some of the most obvious potential uses for AR from Apple include indoor navigation and a telepresence video call. He sees PrimeSense's 3D camera capabilities as key to this, allowing users to scan their environment around them for an incredibly realistic experience.

"We believe Apple's early involvement in the space suggests the company is preparing for the next evolution of computing," Munster wrote. "Additionally, we believe Apple's evolving fashion advantage means they can uniquely develop products that consumers will actually want vs. prototype style offerings today."

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    macapfelmacapfel Posts: 575member
    Apple no doubt is working on their own AR project. The question is: does it make sense to ever come to live?
  • Reply 2 of 17
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    So now that Munster's TV never came to fruition he's moved on to pimping augmented reality.
  • Reply 3 of 17
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,526member
    macapfel wrote: »
    Apple no doubt is working on their own AR project. The question is: does it make sense to ever come to live?

    "Come to life" is the English idiomatic way of saying this. And the answer is yes, in my opinion.

    Augmented reality will be many times more useful than virtual reality, since it will blend the real world and the computational world in real time.

    Also, including Google's one-eyed, half-brained Glass implementation sends the wrong message about AR. The compelling element of AR will be, is, that it's binocular and therefore in stereo, or 3D, as long as you have two working eyes to view it. Google Glass was an insult to AR.
  • Reply 4 of 17

    Perhaps wearing the AR device is the only way we can see the hypothetical AppleCar?

  • Reply 5 of 17
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,286member
    flaneur wrote: »
    "Come to life" is the English idiomatic way of saying this. And the answer is yes, in my opinion.

    Augmented reality will be many times more useful than virtual reality, since it will blend the real world and the computational world in real time.

    Also, including Google's one-eyed, half-brained Glass implementation sends the wrong message about AR. The compelling element of AR will be, is, that it's binocular and therefore in stereo, or 3D, as long as you have two working eyes to view it. Google Glass was an insult to AR.
    I think you'll be interested in this article
    http://spectrum.ieee.org/consumer-electronics/audiovideo/google-glass-hololens-and-the-real-future-of-augmented-reality
  • Reply 6 of 17

    There is a lot of interesting speculation and interesting information in this article.

     

    What also might be cool is when Apple comes out with new products. Take the Watch for example, you could load up the AR Apple Store and shop. "Trying" on as many models and bands as one wants, seeing what it looks like on your wrist without ever leaving the couch. Or how big or small will the new iPhone look and "feel" like in the hand. How much more desk space would I need for a bigger iMac. "Feel" the difference in sizes between iPads and give them a quick test run. That could all be done with AR.

  • Reply 7 of 17
    I take issue with these articles posting that Apple is stealing away workers. I've worked in a few jobs which are no where near the level of company secrecy of tech companies and I even had to sign a contract with a clause to not compete in the same line of work for a few years after leaving that job. If they are taking workers do they just not care or they might be putting them in different lines of work? With how litigious the tech world is, would they risk it?
  • Reply 8 of 17
    formosaformosa Posts: 261member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by rotateleftbyte View Post

     

    Perhaps wearing the AR device is the only way we can see the hypothetical AppleCar?




    Or perhaps integrated in the hypothetical AppleCar's "head-up" display?

  • Reply 9 of 17

    In California, where most of these tech companies are located, non-compete clauses are void and effectively cannot be enforced in court (see for instance, http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2008/08/california-supreme-court-strikes-down-noncompete-clauses/).  However, there was a treaty between large tech companies to voluntarily not poach each other's employees, but the workers formed a class-action lawsuit over the resulting suppressed wages (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/03/judge-oks-415-million-no-poaching-payout-to-apple-google-employees/).  So nowadays, I doubt Apple needs to think twice about hiring away people from other companies... to do so might even put them at odds with the terms of their settlement.

  • Reply 10 of 17
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,526member
  • Reply 11 of 17

    More like hoLOLens am i right?

  • Reply 12 of 17
    palegolaspalegolas Posts: 1,361member
    macapfel wrote: »
    Apple no doubt is working on their own AR project. The question is: does it make sense to ever come to live?
    The day VR glasses can be made the same form factor as regular sun shades, that's the day to release VR glasses with AR technology.
  • Reply 13 of 17
    hydrogenhydrogen Posts: 314member
    How would you say in english : "poached back" ?
  • Reply 14 of 17
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member

    Maybe for gaming? I just can't see people walking around in AR or VR gear and bonking their heads into things and falling down flights of stairs.

  • Reply 15 of 17
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,526member
    hydrogen wrote: »
    How would you say in english : "poached back" ?

    It's not very exciting. "Repoach," I guess. You can't say "retropoach."
  • Reply 16 of 17
    Well, having this much creative and experienced team on the backing, Apple can surely alter the parameters in VR/AR.

    (http://www.virtualrealitytimes.com/category/technology/)
  • Reply 17 of 17
    Well, I think Apple will first see how 2016 will go and then decides whether he would employ MS's Engineer's service in AR/VR or some other tech.

    (virtualrealitytimes . com)
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