Apple might be working on something unexpectedly ambitious, according to a report from Ashlee Vance at Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
Vance reports that Apple poached “robotics whiz” John Morrell from Yale last year. No one knows what he’s doing at Apple.
Morrell was director of the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design at Yale. He was trying to breathe some life into Yale’s tech scene, which Vance suggests is relatively moribund. “My roboticist friends think he must be working on something pretty fantastic to have quit the Yale post,” says Vance.
Previously, Morell was a leading engineer at Segway, the two-wheel electric scooter. At Apple, he’s in the Mac software group, according to Vance’s sources. But, even Vance doesn’t seem to think that makes much sense.
It would be odd to drop a prestigious job at Yale working on advanced robotics to work on Mac software, especially since Morell says, “I started looking at robotics sometime in college and then in grad school and I was really excited about it.”
In an interview with the Yale Daily News last year, Morrell said he was working on “basic manipulation tasks” for robots, like opening doors. He was also exploring how our sense of touch worked, as well as how we interact with machines.
Vance also notes that there are other Segway employees at Apple, and perhaps they’re working with Morrell on something big. Or, maybe not, no one really knows.
Google has the reputation for going after “moon shots,” which is slang for big ambitious ideas like self-driving cars. Apple, meanwhile, is not know for big crazy ideas, even though it revolutionized the mobile industry with the iPhone and the PC industry with the iPad.
With a guy like Morrell working on secret projects, Apple might have its own moon shoots in the works.