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April 25, 2017

Apple hires former NASA augmented and virtual reality whiz Jeff Norris

by John_A

Why it matters to you

Apple has lofty ambitions for augmented reality, and a high-profile hire like this one demonstrates just how seriously the company is taking its research.

Apple has reportedly hired virtual and augmented reality expert Jeff Norris to help shape its long-gestating implementation of the technology. Norris has been working with NASA since 1999, and for the past three years he has served as the lead for the organization’s Mission Operations Innovation Office.

Anonymous sources have confirmed that Norris joined Apple earlier in the year, and is working as a senior manager of the AR team, according to a report from Bloomberg. This group is prototyping a pair of glasses capable of displaying AR imagery, as well as software for the iPhone that can take advantage of these capabilities.

During his time at NASA, Norris contributed to various projects that centered around applying AR and VR technology to the space program. One such endeavor outfitted scientists on Earth with headsets that could receive live imagery from the surface of Mars.

Norris was also involved with a program that sent Microsoft’s HoloLens headsets to astronauts on the International Space Station. His familiarity with that hardware could prove to be critical, as Microsoft and Apple seem poised to do battle for control of the AR market over the coming years — provided the technology takes off as anticipated.

It’s no secret that AR is a major priority for Apple in the long term. The company sees the technology as having the potential to provide a major evolution of the iPhone’s current capabilities, so it seems that AR features could hit the smartphone first, in the hopes of convincing users that its AR glasses are a worthwhile investment once they’re ready for the marketplace.

However, it’s difficult to predict when Apple will unveil its implementation of AR to the public. Rumors persist that the tech could be ready by 2018, and the recent upswing in news about the project may lead credence to those reports.

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