Bill Athas dead and obituary, Secretive Exploratory Design Group death

Everyone in the Apple community knows that Apple is known for keeping its future products secretive, but even by those standards, the company’s Discovery Design Group is among the most secretive.

According to a new report from Mark Gurman, this undercover team is the brains behind future stingless blood glucose tracking technology for the Apple Watch. That’s not all we do. The organization is similar to X, Alphabet Inc.’s “Moonshot Factory” that helped develop Waymo self-driving car technology, Google Glass and the Loon internet balloon.

Although the Apple team (better known as XDG within the company) is primarily focused on glucose work, there are several other projects underway that make important contributions to existing Apple devices.

The team was founded several years ago and has long been led by Bill Athas. Bill Assass was one of the few people to hold an engineering position at Apple until his unexpected death late last year. Late co-founder Steve Jobs and current CEO Tim Cook consider Assass one of the company’s brightest technology minds.

The XDG team is part of Apple’s Hardware Technology Group and is led by Senior Vice President Johny Srouji. The company operates out of a building called Tantau 9, just outside the spaceship-shaped ring of Apple Park.

The team is now led by multiple Athas deputies, including top Apple engineers and scientists Jeff Koller, Dave Simon, Heather Sullens, Bryan Raines and Jared Zerbe. Kohler, Simon and Raines worked on the glucose project, while Sullens and Zerbe led other groups within the larger team.

The Discovery Design Group is a startup within Apple with only a few hundred people, most of whom are engineers and academics. That’s a far cry from the hundreds of people working on Apple’s special projects group focused on self-driving cars, or the more than a thousand engineers in Apple’s Technology Development Group, the team that develops mixed reality headsets.

In addition to glucose research, XDG is working on next-generation display technology, artificial intelligence, and AR/VR headset capabilities to help people with eye disease. The team originally came together under Athas’ leadership to develop low-power processor technology and next-generation smartphone batteries, and that effort continues.