While other smartphone makers are focusing on wide-angle lenses and a wider array of modes, expect Apple to push in a bold new direction with the iPhone 8.
According to a new report, Apple has amassed a team that is focusing on augmented reality not just for the tenth anniversary iPhone but also a new dedicated device.
Bloomberg reports that AR features for the iPhone's camera will be the opening salvo in what figures to be a company-wide effort to deliver more AR products, including a set of augmented reality glasses that have been rumored to be in the works.
The report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, who has long been wired into Apple's comings and goings, focuses mostly on Apple's organizational efforts in its AR push. The company has reported assembled a team headed by a former Dolby Laboratories executive that includes Oculus and HoloLens veterans. Apple has also boosted its AR efforts by snapping companies that specialize in the technology. "Hundreds of engineers are now devoted to the cause," Gurman repots.
The first product likely to be impacted by Apple's AR push is the iPhone 8, with Bloomberg reporting that the company's AR team is focusing on adding features to the phone's camera. This lines up with some earlier iPhone 8 rumors.
Specifically, an AR-equipped camera on the iPhone would let you snap a photo and use depth sensing technology to alter the depth of the captured image, according to the report; you would also be able to change the depth of specific objects in that photo.
MORE: iPhone 8 vs. Galaxy S8: Rumor Face-Off
Other features in the works for the iPhone's camera include the ability to isolate and tilt images in a photo. Bloomberg says that Apple may also take a page out of Snapchat's playbook and let you overlay virtual objects onto the photo of a person you've taken with with your iPhone.
Bloomberg's report squares with earlier rumors we've heard about Apple's AR ambitions for future iPhones. Last year, Business Insider reported that Apple was looking to integrate AR technology into the Camera app on the next iPhone, with some of the capabilities similar to those described in the more recent Bloomberg report.
Apple is also reportedly adding a 3D camera sensor to the iPhone 8, with analyst Ming-Chi Kou forecast that the feature is slated for the phone's front camera. That would allow the iPhone to generate 3D selfies. Other reports suggest AR features in the next iPhone will allow the phone's camera to detect distance so that it can overlay virtual objects on the real world view.
If Bloomberg's report pans out, Apple's AR push won't stop with the iPhone. The company is also working on its own set of AR glasses, which will reportedly pair with Apple's smartphone. Bloomberg doesn't say when the glasses might be ready for consumers other than to report that it's "further down the road," which would contradict a report from last month that the glasses might appear in mid-2017.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.