Apple hires NASA AR guru to help run its own efforts

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(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. has gone to space to find additional talent for its augmented reality efforts. The iPhone maker has hired Jeff Norris, a specialist in the new technology from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, to help build future products, according to people familiar with the matter.

Norris founded the Mission Operations Innovation Office of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, where he led efforts to create new ways to control spacecraft and robots in space with virtual and augmented reality, according to his website.

Norris joined Apple earlier this year as a senior manager on the company's augmented reality team run by former Dolby Labs executive Mike Rockwell, the people said. They asked not to be identified talking about the company's private hiring moves. Rockwell's team is working on a pair of AR glasses and related features for future versions of the iPhone, people familiar with those plans told Bloomberg in March. Representatives of Apple and NASA's JPL declined to comment. Norris didn't respond to an email seeking comment on Monday.

Norris's NASA projects included issuing headsets to scientists on the ground so they could experience live views on Mars and providing Microsoft Corp. HoloLens headsets to astronauts living in the International Space Station. Norris joined NASA in 1999 and helped create software for controlling Mars exploration rovers from the ground. Below is a video of Norris's Project Sidekick on the Space Station.

No technology has fired up Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook quite like augmented reality, which overlays images, videos, games and other digital content on a person's view of the real world. He has likened AR's potential to that of the smartphone, predicting at a conference last year that people will "have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day. It will become that much a part of you."

Apple hopes to bring AR-related hardware to market as soon as 2018, Bloomberg News has reported. Norris -- along with other AR team hires from the movie industry, Facebook Inc.'s Oculus and Microsoft -- will be working to bring that vision to reality.

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