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.

Apple CEO Continues to Set the Stage for Rumored AR Play: 'AR is for everyone, like the smartphone'
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.

Apple's New Patents Mark More Territory in AR Hardware and Software

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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The trial version of Microsoft’s Monster Truck Madness probably had something to do with it. And certainly the original Super Mario Kart and Gran Turismo. A car nut from an early age, Dominic was always drawn to racing games above all other genres. Now a seasoned driving simulation enthusiast, and former editor of Sim Racer magazine, Dominic has followed virtual reality developments with keen interest, as cockpit-based simulation is a perfect match for the technology. Conditions could hardly be more ideal, a scientist once said. Writing about simulators lead him to Road to VR, whose broad coverage of the industry revealed the bigger picture and limitless potential of the medium. Passionate about technology and a lifelong PC gamer, Dominic suffers from the ‘tweak for days’ PC gaming condition, where he plays the same section over and over at every possible combination of visual settings to find the right balance between fidelity and performance. Based within The Fens of Lincolnshire (it’s very flat), Dominic can sometimes be found marvelling at the real world’s ‘draw distance’, wishing virtual technologies would catch up.
  • PT

    “following a disappointingly-incremental update last year” Seriously?

    • Get Schwifty!

      LOL I know right…. guess the phones should have exploded like the Notes…maybe that would have been exciting enough?

      • user

        well, it was pretty much the consensus that the iphone 7 was a disappointment. of course, then apple started the iphone 8 hype with crazy rumours everywhere and people started to forget about the iphone 7.

        Techradar in March 2016: “iPhone 8 tipped to have 5.8-inch curved AMOLED display”

        Forbes in April 2016: “Leaks Suggest Apple Cares About The iPhone 8 A Lot More Than the iPhone 7”

        Mac Rumors in April 2016: “Analyst Predicts 2017 iPhone 8 ‘Mega Cycle’ With OLED, Wireless Charging, and No Home Button”

        • Get Schwifty!

          They say that but I can tell you anyone who got one with the dual cameras, and better sound along with the better speed among other small refinements will definitely will tell you it was not a disappointing upgrade…. I couldn’t care less what the consensus of industry pundits say… the disappointment for them was there was nothing to hype….and why should every single iteration be kick the doors off upgrade? Cell phones are more ore less tapped out currently, it will take AR to really kick them into something new again.

          • user

            with all the money they have they will always disappoint as long as they dont build the best phone on the market. and its been a long time since they were no.1 in top 10 lists.

          • Get Schwifty!

            Specs are only part of the story but they are what “best phone” is wrapped around – anyone who drives cars and cares about experience will tell you specs are not always the way to pick a car, ditto for phones as they have a lot of personal factors involved.

          • NooYawker

            Smartphones moved so fast we’ve become spoiled in expecting huge leaps in every upgrade. Look at what we all expect in the next upgrade of VR. Wireless, inside out tracking headsets, 4K, huge FOVs, body tracking and feedback. We want it all and we want it now. Realistic? No. But that doesn’t slow down our expectations.

    • NooYawker

      I have an iPhone 7 plus and I like my phone but there wasnt much over the 6. I’m anxiously waiting for the 8.

  • Me

    The most understated feature of the iPhone 7 is its haptic feedback. It doesn’t translate well into words or pictures, but it really makes a world of a difference, it’s like having a brand new way of interacting with objects. Now when I use an older phone, it fells like it’s dead to me.

    So they are still innovating, but they lost the magic on how to sell it properly.

    Now regarding AR, if you consider how many times Tim Cook mentioned their interest in it whenevr his was given a tribune, we have to expect something big, or it will be one huge disappointment. Now I’m not sure that it will come for this gen, it appears to be a bit too soon.

    • Xron

      I don’t think AR is ready to be shown to public this or next year… So maybe 2019 or 2020.

    • Get Schwifty!

      I can tell you the haptic feedback in the watch is very handy when driving… and yes, the marketing these days is the problem. The Apple Watch for instance should have been marketed as what it was: something to enhance the iPhone experience as a whole, instead of a central item.

    • Laura Harich

      My 2008 HTC had great haptic feedback too.

      • Me

        Probably, but maybe not on the same level. Have you actually tried an iPhone 7 ? I was also skeptical at first, but it’s really something new for me. It seems the new Niontendo Switch controllers make use of a similar technology, and everyone seems to agree on how excellent it is.

  • OgreTactics

    Well done Samsung, you just irresponsibly lost your competitive advantage with VR.

    • NooYawker

      Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I don’t think first to market means winning anymore. First to market has actually created a lot of bad tech with everyone rushing so they can say stop copying us.

      • OgreTactics

        I don’t think it’s as simple as first to market. I think however it’s has simple as first to develop, iterate, integrate and further developers, users and contents bases before the other one can get to it.

        Samsung had the best competitive incentive since Matias Duarte work’s at Google which they just threw away like crap to make more crap, they just lost it by allowing miserable money-hungry short-sighted business calculation over middle or even shorter wider competitive strategy.

    • Floris

      Huh? Apple did not intent anything. Apple is not an invention company. Apple is dying slowly. Only fanboys believe in Apple. The real world doesn’t.

      • OgreTactics

        Apple invented most things of today. They don’t anymore since there’s no Steve Jobs anymore. But neither do Samsung. They’re pile of crap 2017 line-up is unforgivable, and the market won’t forgive it. And if Apple suddenly decided to screw their investor parasite leeches, and say “let’s actually push the tech a bit further for marketing incentives”…Samsung is going to have a bad year.

  • Everyone conviently forgets the army of VR people Apple’s hired recently,
    their hanging out at Stanford’s VR Lab, etc. ….
    BIG THINGS are coming from Apple in VR, not just AR.

    • user

      so you got caught by the apple hype machine again? a month ago you were convinced we wouldnt see anything from apple in the next 2-3 years.

      • I never said any such thing!
        These and other accusations are nothing but packs of lies!

  • Foreign Devil

    AR are and their phones are two seperate things. I hope. AR should be a completely new device.

  • Claus Sølvsten

    if they do not have a 1000 people working on mr, vr, ar the should have

  • Floris

    Apple and inventions? Apple did not invent anything the past decade.
    Another big fail form Apple. Apple is slowly dying.