Apple has a secret team working on incorporating noninvasive glucose monitoring into its wearable, but this is not its only objective. In addition, the company’s next headgear will likely not require an iPhone, and follow-up models are already in the works. Apple retail personnel should also expect scheduling adjustments.

Apple’s planned mixed-reality headset and WWDC are a wonderful combination, as stated in Power On last week.

The Starters

Apple Inc. is renowned for keeping its future products under wraps, but the Exploratory Design Group is secretive even by those standards.

As I disclosed for the first time last week, this clandestine crew is the brains behind future no-prick glucose monitoring technology for the Apple Watch. And it’s not just working on that. The division is comparable to X, the “moonshot factory” of Alphabet Inc., which helped develop Waymo’s self-driving vehicle technology, Google Glass, and Loon internet balloons.

Though the Apple team, popularly known within the company as XDG, is largely focused on the glucose project, it is also working on other other projects and has produced significant improvements to existing Apple products.

Bill Athas, until his untimely death at the end of last year, was the team’s leader for many years. He was one of the few Apple employees to hold the engineering fellow position. Athas was regarded by the late co-founder Steve Jobs and the current CEO Tim Cook as one of the company’s most talented engineers.

The XDG team is part of Apple’s Hardware Technologies division, overseen by Senior Vice President Johny Srouji, and works at the Tantau 9 building just outside the spaceship-shaped ring of Apple Park.

Many Athas lieutenants, including senior Apple engineers and scientists Jeff Koller, Dave Simon, Heather Sullens, Bryan Raines, and Jared Zerbe, now manage the team on a daily basis. Koller, Simon, and Raines participate in the glucose project, while Sullens and Zerbe oversee other teams within the broader team.

HANDOUT - Apple Event: October 18, 2021

The Exploratory Design Group at Apple acts as a startup and consists of a few hundred people, primarily engineers and academics. This is a long cry from the hundreds of workers working on Apple’s self-driving car in the Special Projects Group or the more than a thousand engineers constructing the mixed-reality headgear in Apple’s Technical Development Group.

In addition to its work with glucose, XDG is developing next-generation display technologies, artificial intelligence, and features for AR/VR headsets that will assist individuals with eye disorders. The team was first assembled by Athas to develop low-power processing technology and next-generation batteries for cellphones; these efforts continue.

Like with other Silicon Valley corporations and Alphabet’s moonshot team, the XDG crew is provided with immense financial resources and the freedom to investigate endless concepts. The members have a distinct mission from the engineering teams that produce new iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches every year. Instead, they are instructed to work on projects until the feasibility of an idea is determined.

The organisation is even more clandestine than Alphabet’s X, but it is not a pipe dream. Already, its innovations have made their way into Apple goods. Many chip and battery technologies created by XDG have been utilised in iPhones, iPads, and Macs for years.

While the team acts as a startup, it is segregated like any other Apple division: XDG personnel allocated to different projects are not permitted to discuss their work with others assigned to the same project.

Yet, the team members are structured by skill sets as opposed to specific tasks. Hence, rather than working on a single product, a single engineer may work on multiple initiatives that match their skills.

The Bench

Key Speakers At The Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC)

Apple’s headset will likely not require an iPhone, and several models are now under development. Unlike the original Apple Watch, the company’s first mixed-reality headgear will likely not require an iPhone for setup or operation. The latest test versions of the device and its embedded xrOS operating system, I’m told, can be set up without an iPhone and can directly download a user’s content and iCloud data from the cloud.

You will still be able to transfer data from an iPhone or iPad when setting up a new device, just as you can now. As previously stated, the headgear lacks a remote control and is instead operated by the user’s eyes and hands.

In-air typing, a vital capability for text input, is reportedly available on the most recent internal prototypes. Nonetheless, it has been temperamental during testing. Hence, if you purchase the first headset, you may still need to attach an iPhone in order to use its touch-screen keyboard. Apple hopes to make fast enhancements to the gadget following its release. The business anticipates that its headset will follow the same path as the original Apple Watch.

Apple plans to introduce its first headset, which may be called the Reality Pro, at WWDC in June. The product would thereafter ship at the earliest by the end of 2023. But, there are already sequels in the works.

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