apple, jeff norris

Apple is going all in with its augmented reality efforts. The Cupertino giant is already speculated to have employed a 1,000-member strong engineering team and is now adding another prominent individual to its AR efforts. According to sources privy to the matter, Bloomberg reports Apple has hired AR and VR pundit Jeff Norris from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to support its ongoing projects.

There is currently no information about what position Norris will be assuming at Apple and what projects he’ll be working on. But, it has been suggested that he joined Cupertino’s augmented reality team as a senior manager. He is said to be reporting to former Dolby Labs executive Mike Rockwell, who is leading the company’s efforts in this new-age technology field. The said team reports to Apple’s Senior VP of hardware engineering Dan Riccio.

I’d suggest you to hush-hush, but Cupertino is said to be working on a pair of augmented reality glasses, as well as other AR features that’ll be integrated into the iPhone in the near future. There is no concrete info on what Apple’s products would look like and how the same may perform, but it will function like an upgraded Google Glass and not released in the market until 2018.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, along with other executives has recently been quite vocal about the potential of AR and how smartphones will bake in these features sooner than expected. The 10th Anniversary iPhone, which may be called iPhone Edition, is expected to debut AR features with the inclusion of a depth-sensing camera on the front and a vertical dual-camera setup on the back. This will enable to you map your surroundings in three-dimension and making changes to the same — Facebook’s Camera Effects platform wants to make such apps mainstream.

Prior to joining Apple, Norris was employed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for more than eighteen years. He joined the space exploration agency back in 1999 and helped develop the software programs for controlling Mars exploration rovers from the ground itself. He is recognized as the pioneer of NASA’s AR and VR efforts as he founded the Mission Operations Innovation Office at their Laboratory.

Under this initiative, he successfully developed a number of AR, VR, MR and robotics solutions while at NASA JPL. According to his official website, he worked on projects which enabled them to control the spacecraft and robots in space with virtual and augmented reality technologies. Some of the projects he worked upon are as follows:

  • a mixed reality (MR) system called  ‘Project Sidekick’ that utilized Microsoft’s HoloLens to communicate with astronauts on the International Space Station. This not only provides them with a holographic instruction manual but work on other missions as well. It was sent to the ISS towards the end of 2015.
  • Microsoft Hololens has been a popular choice of hardware, as it was involved in another initiative called OnSight. It offers you a platform for the virtual exploration of the Red planet — Mars. It was shown off to the masses earlier last year at Destination: Mars museum exhibition.
  • Norris and his team have also developed several other human-machine interfaces to simplify controlling robots in space. They have even employed motion tracking devices such as Microsoft Kinect to manipulate robot arms and interact with holograms.

As for Norris, he is one of the multitudes of augmented reality experts that Apple has hired and onboarded to develop its technology. The Cupertino giant’s team is said to comprise of specialists from some of the most widely popular AR or VR companies around such as Oculus, Magic Leap and others. Apple doesn’t plan on jumping into the game instantly, it plans to slowly roll out this technology in stages until it becomes more mainstream.

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