Analyst Gene Munster has a nice scoop in his latest research report, and it concerns Apple starting to build out its augmented reality initiative. Apple recruited a key HoloLens engineer away from Miscrosoft, possibly to work on Apple’s own AR product.
Here’s Munster in the research brief, sent to VentureBeat late last night.
“One of the most well known AR projects comes from Microsoft and is called the HoloLens. Apple hired away the lead HoloLens audio engineer at Microsoft. The former Microsoft employee is now listed as ‘Engineer’ for Apple.”
The engineer in question is very likely Nick Thompson, who, according to LinkedIn, worked for Microsoft’s Mountain View, California facility as “Audio Hardware Engineering Lead” from September 2012 to July 2015.
The audio part of the augmented reality experience is very, very important. Munster describes one use case Apple and others may be thinking about or actively working on:
Instead of doing a video call with a normal camera you could use sensors that utilize computer vision to capture space via 3D scanning. The 3D image that is captured by the sensors can then be broadcasted into an AR headset that is located far away. The AR headset would take the 3D image and reconstruct the scene to make it appear as if the person were actually in the room.
Munster includes a link to this video to demonstrate the concept:
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. 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.