Apple might not be planning to build a car, but its car technology could be getting a boost from an emerging technology.
The tech giant’s ongoing investment in augmented reality would allow it to be integrated into a future autonomous driving system, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in a note to investors this week. Kuo, who is widely considered one of the more accurate predictors of Apple’s (AAPL) next move, says augmented reality will start to impact Apple products in a year or two and then be rolled out to most Apple products.
Kuo’s note, which was earlier obtained by Apple-tracking site Macrumors, says augmented reality will kick off on the iPhone and quickly make its way to Apple’s iPad, Macs, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and then automated driving systems.
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Augmented reality is widely viewed as a critical future technology that could eventually become a bigger industry than virtual reality. Unlike virtual reality, which places users in completely 3D environments, augmented reality places virtual elements over the real world, allowing physical and digital objects to interact in real time. Users, then, can manipulate both the real and digital worlds, to augment their reality.
For now, augmented reality is perhaps best illustrated in Microsoft’s (MSFT) HoloLens, a wearable that overlays digital elements over the physical world. Augmented reality is also employed in this summer’s hit mobile game Pokémon GO.
Apple has been investing heavily in augmented reality of late and as of February, had hired more than 140 people with a background in the technology. In an interview with Good Morning America in September, Apple CEO Tim Cook acknowledged the importance of augmented reality, and said he believes it will become a bigger business for Apple than virtual reality.
“My own view is that augmented reality is the larger of the two, probably by far, because this gives the capability for both of us to sit and be very present talking to each other, but also have other things visually for both of us to see,” said Cook. “Maybe it’s something we’re talking about, maybe it’s someone else here that is not here, present, but could be made to appear to be present with us. So there’s a lot of really cool things there.”
It’s unclear how Apple might integrate augmented reality in its rumored car technology, and Kuo didn’t say how far along the augmented reality integration is and what it would look like. But at first blush, augmented reality could find a suitable home in cars by offering them more information while on the road.
Apple, of course, hasn’t commented on its future plans and hasn’t even said it’s working on car technology. However, a report last month suggested Apple’s long-rumored car project, known as Project Titan, has taken a turn and was now focused on self-driving car technology. It’s believed Project Titan was the codename given for Apple’s attempt at building its own electric car.
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Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.