Apple’s work on augmented reality glasses appears to be shifting into a new phase this week, as a series of recent job postings and a reported leadership change suggest that the company is actively working to bring a new AR/VR platform to market. Many of the new jobs have opened up over the last week, with a key Product Manager position appearing on Apple’s hiring site today.
On the hiring front, Apple has recently posted (via RoadtoVR) a large collection of new job openings calling specifically for AR and VR expertise, ranging from graphics, system UI, system frameworks, and software engineers to an AR/VR demo evangelist and the aforementioned product manager position. Collectively, the listings point to a wide range of needs at Apple — enough people to code and demonstrate the fundamentals of a new AR/VR platform, rather than just some basic apps — assuming, of course, that the new positions aren’t just duplicating ones held by existing Apple employees.
The postings are notably within Apple’s Technology Development Group, an ambiguously named part of the company that has reportedly been working on augmented reality glasses, as well as a new operating system dubbed rOS. Interestingly, however, the job descriptions tend to refer to “AR/VR” rather than AR or VR alone, suggesting that Apple may have decided to make one headset with both capabilities rather than focusing solely on AR.
While there’s been plenty of speculation as to Apple’s progress in the mixed reality space, the company has offered no concrete assurances beyond hints that it will move beyond the capabilities of ARKit, its iOS augmented reality software toolkit. The company has prodded developers to begin working on iPhone- and iPad-dependent AR apps, seemingly with modest success despite continued efforts.
However, a separate report from The Information yesterday suggested that Apple has moved a particularly disciplined, demanding program management executive named Kim Vorrath into a leadership role with the augmented reality team. Vorrath’s name first surfaced years ago in a profile establishing her role as a finalizer of products — someone who corrals developers to meet internal deadlines and actually ship releases of iOS and macOS on time. Now, the report claims, Apple hopes she will bring “some order to the team developing a long-anticipated AR headset,” which might or might not be able to meet a previously suggested 2020 shipping timeline based on current progress.
Apple has also hired Nat Brown, a Valve VR team member and co-creator of Microsoft’s original Xbox, to a position that will focus “on all applications of graphics” across Apple platforms. It’s unclear whether Brown will continue to work on VR at Apple, or have a more broad portfolio within the company, but a series of post-hire tweets suggested that he loves working on “platform ecosystems and systems engineering,” bringing third-party developers to work on and improve hardware platforms, and is particularly interested in how “games and AR/VR push systems really, really hard.”
Last month, a questionable supply chain report suggested that Apple had cancelled its AR headset project and disbanded the development team in May, following the early 2019 departure of former HoloLens creator Avi Bar-Zeev from the company. The project was first publicized by Bloomberg in 2017, at the time suggesting that Apple hoped to ship the headset in 2020.