Apple Adds VR Content Startup Jaunt Founder to its Growing Team
In a bid to bolster its augmented reality projects, Apple has just made a major hire in the virtual reality space by bringing onboard the serial entrepreneur and founder of the Disney-backed virtual reality content startup Jaunt, Arthur van Hoff.
Van Hoff will be joining Apple as the Senior Architect of an immersive reality-focused team at the tech company that is yet to be named. Also, it is not yet clear from the release on the role that he will play in the team. However, van Hoff has extensive experience in multi-camera systems as well as video creation for augmented reality and virtual reality. He’s also specialized in the capture of 3D images with the use of depth-sensing cameras. At Jaunt, he had been instrumental in helping the VR startup shift its focus to augmented reality before he quit in December 2018. According to information on his LinkedIn profile, he will begin working at Apple at a Senior Architect position this April.
Van Hoff’s hiring came barely two months after Avi Bar-Zeev, the HoloLens co-creator left Apple after working at the tech giant for three years in a project that is thought to have been linked to Apple’s planned but yet to be announced augmented reality headset.
It’s not clear whether van Hoff will settle into the AR headset project or whether Apple has other projects up his sleeve. Since Apple has been hiring plenty of Jaunt engineers in the past few years to work on the augmented reality project, chances are that Van Hoff will be working once more with some of his former colleagues.
There are however various likely applications of van Hoff’s experience at Apple. The most obvious is that he will be moving to the AR headset project and help with its development, including by working on the content creation aspect. Rumors have also been milling about Apple’s plans to add laser-assisted cameras to iPhone that will capture the depth data, a capability that is currently impossible with its current rear camera setup. Given van Hoff’s previous experience with multi-camera 3D applications, he could just be the right man for this role, leveraging the AR and 3D features of the camera for Apple’s many devices. These depth-sensing iPhone cameras already make it possible to have feature such as portrait mode photography and Face ID.
Van Hoff founded his VR content company Jaunt in 2013 and worked as the company’s CTO from its founding to December 2018. In 2016, he briefly assumed the CEO role in the startup. His company has been one of the pioneers and drivers of cinematic virtual reality. Jaunt built its own high-end camera for VR capture. The startup has also developed a distribution platform for virtual reality content. Jaunt raised $65 million in 2015 from Disney and other investors.
Van Hoff founded Jaunt and also invented the startup’s Jaunt One camera system which brings 360-degree 3D content to VR headset wearers. Apple can certainly count on his decades of experience in building both dual- and multi-camera photography products.
In spite of its pioneering work in this area, Jaunt has been offloading many of its core assets over the past year. The company completely shed off its virtual reality products and cinematic VR to focus on augmented reality (AR) and extended reality (XR).
In January this year, Van Hoff joined the AI vision startup Lucid’s Board of Advisors to direct and advise the company on rolling out AI, 3D vision, machine learning and depth capture technology to mobile devices. However, he terminated this engagement prior to joining Apple.
Apple is reportedly in the process of ramping up its investments in next-gen augmented reality software and hardware, computer vision and artificial intelligence projects within and outside the automotive industry as well as in sophisticate depth-sensing 3D cameras.
With van Hoff’s background in developing cinematic VR video with his startup, it’s highly likely that he will assist the tech giant in building consumer and enterprise applications for the devices of the future that will be equipped with depth-sending cameras. This could translate in various improvements including the equipping of the iOS Camera or FaceTime apps with volumetric 3D capabilities. It could also result in the incorporation of 3D capabilities in the shows on Apple’s new AppleTV+ video creation program.