According to a Bloomberg story published this week, Apple hired Jeff Norris of NASA to work on augmented reality initiatives.
Norris has reportedly been an employee of Apple since earlier in the year, according to Bloomberg’s unnamed sources.
Now at Apple, Norris is reportedly working as a member of a team run by Mike Rockwell, formerly of Dolby Labs. Rockwell’s team is known to be working on a pair of AR glasses that can work in conjunction with Apple’s iPhone line of smartphones.
Norris was the face and voice of NASA’s mixed reality projects for some time now. He was on stage at last year’s Unity Vision Summit explaining how the organization was using Microsoft’s HoloLens to help ground crews communicate with astronauts and operate machinery in outer space. He was also instrumental in sending the HoloLens to space for the first time where it was worn by astronaut Scott Kelly aboard the International Space Station.
Norris completed these projects, and others like them, as a member of the Mission’s Operation Innovation Office — a subset of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory that he himself founded. He has been a mixed reality visionary for some time now. In an interview several years ago, Norris stated that:
“It’s now conceivable to put these kinds of devices in the hands of a whole mission science team. It’s also possible for us to imagine in the not too distant future millions of people in the public having these kinds of devices and being able to consume this data along with us.
If we put humans on Mars someday, we should have millions of people there with them standing beside them in this holodeck-like way. In 1969 the television was the most engaging and effective medium for bringing the world along. It was the perfect choice at the time. It’s not the perfect choice now.”
Apple is currently something of a sleeping giant in the immersive tech industry. While other major tech companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft have raced into the VR/AR markets, Apple has been biding its time.
Patent applications and hirings like this, however, paint a very clear picture. One that indicates Apple is planning to do what it typically does: wait for the perfect moment, and then release a highly polished, consumer-ready product.