Apple Engineer speaks to augmented reality applications at Emerson Launch event


Photo credit: Hongyu Liu

By Hongyu Liu, Multimedia Managing Editor

Apple Engineer Steve Hayman presented at the Emerson Launch Speaker Series’ second event of the semester on Feb. 11 on how people can create new augmented reality apps with Apple’s newly developed tools.

Emerson Launch Program Manager Frida Sternbach said the Emerson Launch Speaker Series was created a year ago. For each event, the program selects an outside speaker and an Emerson professor who has a topic they would like to discuss and share with the Emerson community.

“It is about entrepreneurship, innovations, technologies, designs, all of that,” she told The Beacon in an interview. “We are just providing space and a platform for professors and students to show their project or whatever they want to show to the Emerson community.”

Paul Niwa, associate professor of journalism, invited Hayman to speak at Emerson. Niwa said he was interested in learning about augmented reality and what can it bring to future journalism teaching.

Augmented reality apps can take live video from a camera and use a program to superimpose other components on top of it, Hayman said during the speech. He added that the ARkit—an app Apple developed—is known for its world tracking function. The app can identify objects, flat surfaces, and human faces from the live video. It then interacts with the identified targets based on the programming.

During the presentation, Hayman showed several examples of apps to illustrate the broad potential of the product, including Insight Heart. This app projects a 3D human anatomy model onto the first surface it detects. Then, the user of the app can move their phone around to observe the model from different angles and distances.

Hayman also presented Xcode, which helps users program AR apps, and Swift Playground, a tutorial app for the Swift programming language app. Both programs are designed to aid amateurs programmers.

Emerson Launch Director Sanjay Pothen said he hopes the series exposes students to technological developments.

“The expectation is to introduce all the exciting stuff that is happening out in the world,” he said. “We think it is beneficial for our students to learn about it.”

Pothen added that he was happy with the turnout of the event.

“We have a full house, I did a quick count of about 50 people,” he said. “It is interesting to know that our students are interested to know not just book-learning or in-class learning, but what’s happening [outside the classroom].”

Pothen said the college previously approved a class on creating AR apps for the second summer 2019 semester, however, it was canceled due to a lack of interest from students.

Junior Laurence Nieves said he attended the event out of interest in visual reality and AR producing.

“It’s [the] first time media has changed your experience on getting to know things,” he said.