Any little bit of new light shed on Apple's rumored augmented reality plans is irresistible, and the latest comes from a fairly powerful source — a former Apple engineer who worked on the iPhone.
Working as a human interface designer, Ken Kocienda joined Apple way back in 2001, back in the days when people were still wondering if the internet would stick around, and long before the smartphone as we know it took off.
Kocienda left Apple just over a year ago, and now he's telling his story in a book detailing his experience working at the smartphone giant when Steve Jobs was still around shaping the vision of the iconic tech brand.
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Titled Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs, the book gives Kocienda's perspective as a software engineer who was "directly responsible for experimenting with novel user interface concepts and writing powerful, easy-to-use software for products including the iPhone, the iPad, and the Safari web browser."
But what most will be interested in are his comments on CNBC on Tuesday related to Apple's future and AR. When asked what he thought he next big innovation in software would be coming to smartphones in general, his answer was immediate and clear:
"What I'm really interested in technologies like augmented reality," said Kocienda.
"You could take your phone, and you could point its camera at something in the world and it would tap into the network hardware and software and it would all collaborate to give you a feature like…say you're traveling in a foreign country and you don't speak the language, well you could just point the camera at a sign and it'll just translate it."
Of course, longtime users of the Google Translate app on both iOS and Android know that this is something that's already available, so it's possible Kocienda was merely offering up a simple example for those unfamiliar with the app. Nevertheless, his reference points to one of the most powerful utilities of AR currently being used that many are still unaware of, namely, an app that instantly transforms foreign text into your native language, nearly flawlessly, right before your eyes via your smartphone's camera.
"That kind of integration," says Kocienda, "of all of these features, the hardware, the software, the networking, it makes for some pretty exciting products."
Coming from Kocienda, who has almost certainly been sworn to secrecy by Apple, that's still a pretty telling comment. We know that Apple tends to begin work on new product categories years in advance, and Kocienda was still part of the Apple think tank around this time last year. So his excitement about AR is meaningful in that it highlights Tim Cook's recent statement about AR changing everything, making it even more poignant.
Unfortunately, Kocienda does little to shed light on the rumors about Apple's AR smartglasses. And based on some of the excerpts from his book, which describe how he was kept from seeing the iPhone he was contributing to until late in the process of bringing it to market, he may have never been exposed to any Apple iGlasses information.
Regardless, he's the most high profile longtime insider to leave the halls of Apple in recent months, and his vision of the future is squarely focused on AR. Therefore, given the history of Apple and its team members, Kocienda's comments are about as big a hint as we need to tell us that more things are likely coming from Apple beyond mere AR apps in the relatively near future.