Apple is rumored to have a secret research unit with hundreds of employees working on augmented and virtual reality, exploring ways the emerging technologies could be used in future products. One product said to be under development is a virtual reality headset, and Apple has reportedly created several prototypes.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster believes Apple plans to put iOS at the center of several forthcoming augmented reality and VR innovations set to launch within the next two years.
In a research note obtained by AppleInsider, Munster claims a timeline of recent purchases and hires by the company suggests that iOS support for „mixed reality“ applications could be set for launch as soon as 2018.
The analyst points to a LinkedIn search which reveals at least 141 Apple employees with a background in AR, although it should be noted that the same search returns 425 and 267 people with similar experience working at Microsoft and Google, respectively.
Of particular interest to Apple is the concept of „mixed reality“ wearables, or advanced optics that use embedded cameras and sensors to blend holographic imagery with real-life objects, claims Munster.
Intellectual property gained via research and development projects as well as strategic acquisitions, such as Apple’s purchase of 3D body sensing firm PrimeSense, are said to be behind the recent drive.
We believe 10 years from now Generation Z will find reality inefficient. We believe the concept of an ‘inefficient reality’ is evident through smartphone use today — the precursor to mixed reality — offering users the ability to find more information as needed.
The analyst goes on to suggest a natural progression in the personal technology market from smartphones to AR/VR and believes Apple is looking at VR as an iPhone peripheral, much like the Apple Watch. The prospect of Apple releasing hardware on this front in the near term is seen by Munster as unlikely, although by 2018 Apple may be ready to offer developers an official software framework for licensed third-party hardware solutions, similar to the company’s MFi Program for iOS devices.
Munster has made questionable assertions in recent years, with predictions such as Apple’s rumored television set having failed to materialize. Still, the note does follow a recent report by Financial Times claiming that Apple has built a „secret research unit“ in which hundreds of employees are experimenting with AR and VR technologies. The team is said to be made up of, among others, experts plucked from Microsoft and live-action VR company Lytro.
Apple’s interest in virtual reality has gained pace over the last few years, with the filing of multiple patents for VR-related products, like video goggles, motion-sensing 3D virtual interfaces for iOS devices, and 3D „hyper reality“ displays. More recently, Apple has made a spate of AR/VR-related acquisitions, including Metaio, Faceshift, Emotient, and image-recognition app creators Flyby Media. Last month, the company hired Doug Bowman, said to be one of the leading VR experts in the United States.
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Apple VP of Product Design Steve Zadesky, who was believed to be leading Apple’s electric vehicle development efforts since 2014, has informed colleagues that he will be leaving the company, according to The Wall Street Journal. He remains at Apple for now.
Zadesky, a former Ford engineer, joined Apple in 1999 and worked on the iPod and iPhone during his 16-year career in Cupertino. He is also named on several U.S. patents and documents related to Liquidmetal, a malleable alloy which Apple owns the exclusive rights to.
His impending departure from Apple is said to be for personal reasons, rather than an indication of his performance at the company, and marks a setback for Apple’s electric vehicle plans:
Still, the pending departure marks a setback for one of the most talked-about projects in the technology field. Apple has become the most valuable company in the world making consumer electronics products, but moving into the automotive sector poses big new challenges.
Apple has aggressively recruited engineers and other talent from Tesla, Ford, GM, Samsung, A123 Systems, Nvidia and elsewhere to work on the rumored „Apple Car“ project, which has allegedly been called „Project Titan“ internally. Just days ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk even called the „Apple Car“ an „open secret.“
Last year, Apple also had discussions with a secure Bay Area testing facility for connected and autonomous vehicles, and met with the California DMV to review self-driving vehicle regulations. Further speculation arose when Apple registered a trio of auto-related domain names, including apple.car, apple.cars and apple.auto, earlier this month.
Apple’s electric vehicle could be approved for production by 2020, but some employees reportedly believe it „might take several more years“ for the iPhone maker to develop a truly differentiated electric vehicle. The project has encountered some challenges internally due to a lack of clear goals, according to the report.
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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey last night hinted at an incoming change to the 140-character limit for which the social network has been known over the past decade. Dorsey mentioned that the limit has „become a beautiful constraint“ over the years, but the company is aware of certain workarounds its fans are going through to break away from the rule.
He points towards a possibility in the near future for the site to support full-bodied text tweets that are searchable and can be highlighted by users without a strict 140-character restriction. Back in August, Twitter removed the same limit from its private messaging system, and a month later new rumors about the possibility for the same move for traditional tweets began circling.
„At its core Twitter is public messaging. A simple way to say something, to anyone, that everyone in the world can see instantly. We’ve spent a lot of time observing what people are doing on Twitter, and we see them taking screenshots of text and tweeting it.
Instead, what if that text…was actually text? Text that could be searched. Text that could be highlighted. That’s more utility and power. What makes Twitter, Twitter is its fast, public, live conversational nature. We will always work to to strengthen that. And by focusing on conversation and messaging, the majority of tweets will always be short and sweet and conversational!“
According to people familiar with Twitter’s plans, speaking with Re/code, the project is referred to as „Beyond 140“ and has a tentative launch window around the end of Q1 2016. Numbers that have been considered internally by the team range from 5,000 to 10,000 character limits, the latter of which would fall alongside the same restriction placed inside of private messages on the site.
The sources point to expandable actions for the new tweets that would keep timelines as tight and orderly as they appear with the current limit, but include an expandable prompt that would then showcase the tweet’s full text when clicked. Recently, Twitter updated its site to allow full images to appear without being cut off, and changed the favoriting star to a heart.
Apple is planning to further expand at its Reno, Nevada data center site, reports the Reno Gazette-Journal, citing a recent permit Apple filed with Washoe County. Apple has requested permission to build a new data center adjacent to its exiting data center.
Over the past several years, Apple has expanded at the site of its original data center several times to add on new buildings, but its most recent permit suggests it is seeking to build a second data center nearby under the codename „Project Huckleberry.“
Image via the Reno Gazette-Journal
Project Huckleberry’s plans call for several new data center clusters and a support building, similar to the current „Project Mills“ data center on the site.
„It’s a whole different set of buildings but it looks like it is going to be essentially the same design as Project Mills, only turned perpendicularly to the east,“ said Trevor Lloyd, senior planner for Washoe County Planning and Development’s Community Services.
Apple’s existing data center on its Reno campus is operational, but still under development. When finished, it is expected to encompass 14 buildings and 412,000 square feet. Apple’s second data center will be similar in size, with the site also eventually including an accompanying solar farm.
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