When there's smoke, there's fire, and when it comes to Apple's interest in augmented reality, there's a whole a lot of smoke that's becoming increasingly impossible to ignore.
Goldman Sachs analyst Simona Jankowski said that there's a strong chance Apple will incorporate augmented reality features into the iPhone 8. In a note obtained by Benzinga, Jankowski said that "the inclusion of 3D sensing functionality is increasingly likely, which could enable a robust augmented reality (AR) feature set that we believe will be a key differentiator for the 10-year anniversary iPhone."
Jankowski also points to Apple's rumored relationship with a 3D-sensor technology company called Lumentum, a partnership that initially surfaced last week via a report from Fast Company.
"Our source says Apple has been working with Lumentum (formed when JDS Uniphase split in 2014) on 3D-sensing technology for the new high-end phone. It remains unclear how the technology will be applied, however. It could be used to recognize the user's face for authentication. It could also be used in the camera to provide better image resolution. It could even be used in some form of augmented reality application, according to our source."
Bolstering this rumor, Jankowski also draws our attention to the fact that Lumentum during its most recent earnings conference call said that they just "shipped our first revenue into what we believe could be a high volume mobile device application."
Now as for how Apple plans to implement augmented reality, there are reports that users will be able to point the iPhone 8 at an object and the device will be able to identify what's in frame. We've also seen reports that the iPhone 8 will able to readily identify and manipulate faces, similar to what popular apps like MSQRD already do.
It's also worth noting that Ming-Chi Kuo, who likely has the best track record among Apple analysts, has gone on record and said that Apple's AR implementation will be 3-5 years ahead of the competition. Incidentally, there are also reports that Apple has plans to release a pair of augmented reality powered smart glasses by 2018.
Lastly, it's no secret that Tim Cook is a huge fan of augmented reality. Just last week, Cook spoke in glowing terms about augmented reality, likening it in potential to the smartphone.
"I'm excited about Augmented Reality because unlike Virtual Reality which closes the world out," Cook said during an interview last week, "AR allows individuals to be present in the world but hopefully allows an improvement on what's happening presently."