Apple may introduce augmented reality functionality into the iPhone’s camera

Report: Apple has up to 1,000 engineers working on AR product for the iPhone

apple encryption court order news logo
Google isn’t the only company looking to cash in on the augmented reality craze. Business Insider reports that Apple plans to integrate augmented reality tech directly into the iPhone’s camera app.

The new feature would reportedly take the form of computer vision. Apple’s work-in-progress camera app will be able to identify objects in-frame and recognize faces, according to the report. And it will be made available to developers in the form of a software development kit.

The most recent news we’ve heard about Apple’s augmented reality plans suggest that Apple may have as many as 1,000 engineers working on an AR-related product in Israel — a product that will make its way to the next iPhone, at least according to analyst Steven Milunovich and his team at UBS. The report, from Business Insider, also highlights that Apple has recently made a number of AR-related purchases, including PrimeSense, a 3D sensing company in Tel Aviv, and RealFace, a facial recognition company also based in Tel Aviv.

The Cupertino, California-based company is far from the first to enter the AR arena. Google Goggles, Google’s eponymous object recognition app, recognizes landmarks, barcodes, books, and works of art, and parses text of labels and signage using optical character recognition. And Amazon’s Flow app can decode QR codes, scan business cards, and recognize tens of millions of books, DVDs, and packaged products.

Apple’s system sounds nearly as ambitious: an app that can identify objects that users point the iPhone’s camera at in real time. It will rely on machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence that “learns” and improves over time, and a database of 3D objects that Apple will either license or build itself.

Beyond those basics, the project’s implications aren’t clear. Google’s Project Tango, an augmented reality platform, leverages sensors to measure the depth of surroundings, but the iPhone lacks the hardware necessary to perform that sort of tracking. Apple Insider speculates that Apple’s brand of machine-learning-powered object tracking could be used for spatial mapping, and that facial recognition, meanwhile, could be used to apply Snapchat-style filters to people’s faces.

Spearheading the project is a team comprised of employees from recent Apple acquisitions. The iPhone maker purchased PrimeSense, the Israeli company behind the motion-tracking hardware in Microsoft’s Kinect sensor, in 2013. It bought Metaio in February 2014, FaceShift in 2015, and Flyby Media in January 2016, all of which specialize in virtual reality and AR technologies. And it hired a senior optics manufacturing engineer specializing in heads-up displays, camera systems, and image sensors in September.

The project builds on another reportedly in development at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters: AR glasses. According to Business Insider, Apple is developing a compact pair of AR eyewear that connect wirelessly with an iPhone and show images and other information in the wearer’s field of vision.

If anything is for certain, it’s that an updated camera app will debut far ahead of a headset. Bloomberg reports that Apple has begun talking with suppliers about the glasses and has ordered “small quantities” of displays for testing. The publication pegs 2018 as the product’s earliest possible release window.

Until then, Snapchat’s Spectacles will have to do.

Updated on 03-02-2017 by Christian de Looper: Added new Business Insider report saying that Apple had as many as 1,000 engineers working on AR.

Emerging Tech

How emotion-tracking A.I. will change computing as we know it

Affectiva is just one of the startups working to create emotion-tracking A.I. that can work out how you're feeling. Here's why this could change the face of computing as we know it.
Android

Google I/O 2019

Like Microsoft BUILD and Apple's WWDC, I/O is Google’s premiere event for developers. Between May 7 and 9, thousands will descend on the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California, where Google will hold keynotes and developer…
Smart Home

Oh, Zuck, no! Facebook rumored to be creating a voice assistant to rival Alexa

Facebook hasn't been a big player in the smart speaker market, but that may be changing: The social media giant is reportedly working on a digital assistant to compete against Alexa and others.
Mobile

The Pixel 3 range will soon be coming to T-Mobile's network

Google's latest flagships, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, are now official and we have all the details from the October 9 event in New York City and Paris. Here's everything we know about the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.
Mobile

BlackBerry Messenger to shut down in May, be replaced by enterprise version

BlackBerry Messenger for consumers will shut down at the end of May, nearly six years after it was launched. The app is going back to its roots, in a way, as it is being replaced by the much simpler BlackBerry Messenger Enterprise.
Deals

Apple Watch Series 3 and Samsung Gear S3 smartwatches get big price cuts

The Apple Watch Series 3 and Samsung Gear S3 are at some of the lowest prices we've seen since so far this year. With discounts from Amazon and Walmart, now is a great time to find spring savings on wearables.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robots that eat landmines and clean your floors

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Mobile

These are the key settings to change on the LG G8 ThinQ smartphone

The LG G8 ThinQ is finally available. There are a lot of settings turned off by default that may be useful in improving the experience of using the phone. We've rounded up 11 key settings for you to change on the G8.
Mobile

LG reportedly files patent for triple selfie camera on smartphone

LG has reportedly filed a patent for a smartphone with three front-facing cameras. However, if the patent turns out to be true, it may come down as just another gimmick for the struggling mobile phone manufacturer.
Mobile

Best iPhone 7 Plus screen protectors to shield your big, beautiful display

Cracked screens are expensive to replace. Fortunately for you, we've rounded up what's available in terms of protection for Apple's large iPhone 7 Plus. Here are the best screen protectors you can buy.
Mobile

Samsung says the Galaxy Fold needs more improvements before it's released

The Samsung Galaxy Fold has arrived, and it goes on sale soon. Folding out from a 4.6-inch display to a tablet-sized 7.3-inch display, this unique device has six cameras, two batteries, and special software to help you use multiple apps.
Mobile

Add style and functionality with the best iPad Pro 9.7 cases

No tablet should be without protection, especially an expensive one. Check out our picks for the best iPad Pro 9.7 cases, so you can add some protection, functionality, and style to your new device.
Mobile

Amazon cuts prices on Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 3 smartwatches

In the market for a new smartwatch? The Apple Watch is the best one, and right now it's a little more affordable than it usually is. The Apple Watch Series 4 and Apple Watch Series 3 are both available at discounted prices straight from…
Home Theater

Bose QuietComfort 35 II wireless headphones get a $93 price cut

Good head-fi is expensive, but a premium set of headphones is worth it. The excellent Bose Quietcomfort 35 Series II is on sale right now from Rakuten with a two-day coupon code that can save you more than 90 bucks.