It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything about Apple’s rumored augmented reality headset, but that doesn’t mean the company is slowing down its development. In fact, data shows that Apple is hiring a lot more AR and VR experts these days. According to data modeling firm Thinknum, the Cupertino tech giant’s hiring in the AR/VR sphere is up 30 times that of last year.
Apple’s AR Hiring Spree
Back in May 2018, Apple had just one open position that focused on AR. Over the next month, that grew to around five or six open positions. Now, almost exactly one year later, Apple has 33 openings that focus exclusively on augmented or virtual reality.
As Thinknum notes, the vast majority of those openings are for positions at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters. But they cover a wide range of expertise and development in both AR and VR.
Some of the open positions include an “AR Experiences Programmer,” an “AR Prototyping Engineer,” and a “Computer Vision Engineer” for ARKit.
While the increase in hiring doesn’t necessarily prove anything, it does suggest that Apple is significantly ramping up its efforts in augmented, virtual and mixed reality. That’s pretty plain to see — the real question is why.
What Is Apple Working on?
Back in June 2017, Apple took the wraps off of ARKit, which allowed app creators to easily make AR-based apps for iOS. Basically overnight, ARKit turned Apple’s mobile operating system into the world’s most widespread AR-capable platform.
And Apple isn’t done. Thinknum’s data hints that the company is looking to make augmented reality a much larger part of its smartphone and tablet platform going forward. Future versions of ARKit could have a slew of uses — from navigation to revolutionary games.
Just as one example, the job listing for AR Experiences Engineer indicates that Apple is looking for someone with experience creating AAA game titles to join the team that created SwiftShot — an AR multiplayer game. Why? “To advance the world’s understanding of Augmented Reality.”
Apple is working on AR technology on its hardware side, too. Past reports have suggested that a future iPhone could sport a 3D laser-equipped, rear-facing camera system that could significantly boost its augmented or virtual reality capabilities. That isn’t even the exciting hardware, either.
There is a plethora of evidence suggesting that Apple is currently developing wearable headsets that leverage augmented or virtual reality technology — or both.
While there has been some chatter about an iPhone-tethered VR device, Apple is also largely expected to debut a full-fledged mixed-reality headset that can operate independently some time in the future. That’s based on patents, rumored Apple meetings with AR suppliers, and some reports out of Apple’s supply chain in the East.
While we know it’s coming, we don’t know exactly when an Apple-designed AR/VR headset will debut. But, according to sources familiar with the plans, the earliest it could hit the market is in 2020.