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Apple to debut augmented reality content on iPhone ahead of dedicated hardware

Why it matters to you

Apple isn't giving up on augmented reality, and functionality related to the tech could show up on the iPhone as soon as next year.

It’s no secret that Apple is interested in augmented reality, as the company’s CEO Tim Cook has said as much publicly several times before. However, there’s now confirmation that Apple is actively pursuing the technology, with a view to introducing related functionality in an upcoming iteration of the iPhone.

A team of hundreds is working on AR under the former head of Dolby’s hardware and new technologies group, Mike Rockwell, according to a report from Bloomberg. Rockwell is reporting to Dan Riccio, who helms the iPad and iPhone engineering groups, which hints at the way Apple plans to familiarize users with AR.

Some engineers on the iPhone team are apparently already working on AR functionality. For instance, there’s a feature in development that would allow iPhone users to take a photograph, then isolate a single object in the image and tilt it 180 degrees.

Another feature is said to use AR to superimpose digital effects and imagery over a person’s image, like the various filters offered by Snapchat. This functionality is expected to underpinned by the work of PrimeSense, a motion-sensor firm that Apple acquired in 2013.

For the time being, the iPhone is the centerpiece of Apple’s AR strategy. However, looking further forward, the company hopes to launch a dedicated device that specializes in this type of content.

Apple is working on a pair of glasses designed for AR, which will likely be tethered to the iPhone in a similar manner to the Apple Watch. As well as the hardware, it’s vital that an appealing spread of content is assembled to encourage users to adopt the device, which is why some features are being prepped to hit the iPhone in 2018 and beyond.

While the likes of Oculus and HTC pursue virtual reality, it’s interesting to see both Apple and Microsoft concentrate their efforts on AR tech. Apple clearly has plenty of ambition when it comes to this sector, but there are still major doubts as to whether the general public has any interest.