According to UBS analyst Steven Milunovich, Apple could have over 1,000 engineers working on Augmented Reality technology in Israel, mostly at its major R&D centre in Herzliya. Milunovich maintains Apple might introduce AR features similar to Google’s Tango in the next iPhone.

AR and VR technologies are in their infancy, but well past the proof-of-concept stage, and rival technology giants already offer consumer or developer products—such as Google’s Tango, Cardboard, and Daydream, and Microsoft’s HoloLens and Mixed Reality HMDs. Apple has no official AR or VR device, likely taking a typically reserved approach and refining the technology in secret. But Apple’s interest in Augmented Reality is well-documented, with many reports of hiring sprees and relevant company acquisitions over the years. CEO Tim Cook has been vocal about his preferences of AR over VR on several occasions.

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an Apple patent displaying a phone-based head mounted display
an Apple patent displaying a phone-based head mounted display

This week, Business Insider reported further evidence that we may see an official AR solution integrated into the next iPhone, expected later this year. Within a research note from UBS analyst Steven Milunovich, he states “According to some industry sources, the company may have over 1,000 engineers working on a project in Israel that could be related to AR”. Some of Apple’s most significant R&D projects take place in Israel, having been invested in the region since 2011, following the purchase of Israeli flash memory producer Anobit. Along with its major development centre in Herzliya, the UBS analyst also references Apple’s AR-related acquisitions PrimeSense and RealFace, both based in Tel Aviv.

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Milunovich goes on to suggest the AR elements in the next iPhone could include “moderate 3D mapping … and possibly an AR software development kit”. MacRumors claims to have seen Milunovich’s notes too, going into further detail about the ‘3D mapping’, describing it as a Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) technology, which is also a major feature of Google’s Tango platform.

As always, all industry eyes will be on Apple once they decide to reveal their progress – and it is increasingly likely to be this year. 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, and following a disappointingly-incremental update last year, the new model could be something very special, making huge leaps in design, features and performance.

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