AR/VR pioneer and Hololens co-inventor Avi Bar-Zeev left Apple last month, Variety has learned. Bar-Zeev had been working on Apple’s augmented reality headset, which the company has been developing in secret for a possible 2020 launch.
Bar-Zeev confirmed his departure when contacted by Variety, saying: “I left my full-time position at Apple in January. I had the best exit one can imagine. I have only nice things to say about Apple and won’t comment on any specific product plans.” He added that he planned to consult in the AR space while “noodling” on the next big thing.
Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bar-Zeev has been working in the AR/VR space for close to three decades. Back in the ’90s, he was part of a team at Disney that worked on some early VR experiences for the company’s theme parks, including “Aladdin’s Magic Carpet” VR ride.
He then went on to co-found Keyhole, the company that later got acquired by Google to become the foundation of Google Maps. After a brief stint at Linden Lab, Bar-Zeev worked for four years at Microsoft.
“He helped found and invent Hololens at Microsoft, assembling the very first AR prototypes, demos and UX concepts, sufficient to convince his leadership,” according to his LinkedIn bio.
Bar-Zeev later recalled that in those early days, immersive computing was still a bit of a tough sell. “Needless to say, at the time, AR was a giant ball of risk. Few people understood the potential or the actual time to market,” he wrote on his blog back in 2016. “AR was not nearly at that point of confidence. Far from it, it was more likely to cost a billion than earn it anytime soon.”
Bar-Zeev joined Apple in June of 2016. The company hasn’t publicly discussed its AR hardware efforts, but the AR/VR pioneer has widely been reported to be part of the company’s team to build an AR headset. On LinkedIn, he described his work at the company this way:
“Lead experience prototyping (XP) team for a new effort. Developed key prototypes to rapidly prove concepts, explore, educate and build support. Developed user stories and technical requirements for the long-term roadmap, while working across design and engineering to ensure success.”
Apple has been working on a headset that combines AR and VR in the same device, Cnet reported last year. The headset could ship as early as 2020, according to that report.