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Could the iPhone 8 come with added AR features?

We’ve heard a lot about Apple’s augmented reality ambitions, from CEO Tim Cook expressing his admiration for the tech to rumours of an AR devices currently in development.

Last summer, during an earnings call, Cook was quoted as saying “We are high on AR for the long run. We think there’s great things for customers and a great commercial opportunity. So we’re investing.”

But just how the company has been investing has remained somewhat of a mystery, despite talk of a possible AR headset from the company, spurred on by news of Apple acquiring various AR and VR-relevant startups.

Related: Apple AR and VR headset – What you need to know

Now, a new report from Bloomberg cites “people with knowledge of the company’s plans” as claiming Apple is hard at work on AR features for future iPhones.

It’s not the first time we’ve heard about augmented reality in relation to the iPhone, with reputable KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo last month predicting a “revolutionary” camera for the upcoming iPhone 8.

According to the analyst, this year’s iPhone will come with an infrared projector and receiver, allowing for some impressive new capabilities – though, this of course remains unconfirmed.

The new Bloomberg report from Mark Gurman makes similar claims, with the anonymous sources revealing that Apple has “built a team combining the strengths of its hardware and software veterans with the expertise of talented outsiders.”

We’ve heard Apple has a team working on AR before, but the new report claims a big part of the group’s focus is on bringing AR to iPhones, with Gurman writing:

One of the features Apple is exploring is the ability to take a picture and then change the depth of the photograph or the depth of specific objects in the picture later; another would isolate an object in the image, such as a person’s head, and allow it to be tilted 180 degrees.

“A different feature in development would use augmented reality to place virtual effects and objects on a person, much the way Snapchat works.

“The iPhone camera features would probably rely on a technology known as depth sensing and use algorithms created by PrimeSense, an Israeli company acquired in 2013.

“Apple may choose to not roll out these features, but such additions are an up-and-coming trend in the phone business.”

Augmented reality differs from virtual reality in that it overlays virtual elements onto the real world, rather than creating a fully virtual environment.

It’s a technology that Microsoft has perhaps most notably made use of with its HoloLens headset, currently available to developers and businesses for a cool $3,000.

Bloomberg’s report reaffirms previous talk of Apple working on its own AR headset, but these “AR-enhanced glasses” are “further down the road” than the iPhone features according to the sources.

As with all these reports, there’s no way to verify the information as entirely accurate, so apply the usual caution here. But we’d be incredibly surprised if Apple weren’t working on some sort of AR technology.

Whether that tech will find its way onto the tenth anniversary iPhone, set to launch later this year, remains unclear at this point, but we should hear more in the coming months.

Let us know what you think of the new report in the comments.

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