Nick Thompson worked for Apple for 7 years, specifically on audio features for Macs and Apple TVs. However, he left the company and went to Microsoft, where he was working as a leader in audio hardware engineering at HoloLens since September 2012.
Not much, however, analyst Travis Jakel (of Piper Jaffray) realized that Thompson returned to Apple last July. That was enough for Gene Munster (also from Piper Jaffray) to claim that Thompson's rehiring is an indication that Apple is investing heavily in augmented reality.
We think that augmented reality audio is often considered something not important or secondary to the experience, however we believe that the position of the audio is what sells the experience and convinces the user that there is a real object in front of or behind you. The ability to recreate sound from a different location, changes based on proximity and the direction of the object should not be overlooked.
In March, Munster said that Apple has assembled an augmented reality team, a long-term project focused on consumers (most likely, if it is real, linked to iOS features). The analyst's bets are: navigation indoor (shopping malls, etc.) and video calling with telepresence.
The interest in augmented reality does exist, after all, in 2013, Ma acquired PrimeSense, a company behind Kinect's three-dimensional sensor, and at the beginning of the year it snapped up Metaio, a German company specialized in augmented reality techniques.