- Apple is reportedly working on an augmented reality (AR) headset that works as a standalone device.
- The team working on the project was set up about two years ago, and a finalized product might be ready to ship as early as 2020, Bloomberg reports.
- The company will also reportedly offer a refreshed version of its ARKit developer toolkit next year.
Apple is working on an augmented reality (AR) headset, and it might have it ready as early as 2020, a according to new report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman says.
Bloomberg reports that the headset will have its own display, and that it will be powered by a dedicated chip and operating system. That would enable it to essentially function as a standalone device that doesn’t necessarily need to be paired with an iPhone. It’s not clear whether the device’s design is ultimately expected to resemble a headset similar to Microsoft’s HoloLens or something closer to a pair of glasses.
CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly expressed his interest and excitement for virtual reality, saying that it’s something that makes him want to “yell out and scream.” During the company’s most recent earnings call, he said that the company believes “AR is going to change the way we use technology forever.“
The project could see completion within two years, and a finished product ready to ship as early as 2020, Bloomberg says, although it warns that this timeline is aggressive and subject to change.
In the AR space, Google tried to push its innovative smart glasses (dubbed “Google Glass”) back in 2013, but they ultimately failed to take off due to a series of privacy concerns and the lack of any killer apps.
Microsoft, which missed the mobile revolution boat almost entirely, is also heavily focused on what it calls “mixed reality” (which includes both virtual and augmented reality), and has its own HoloLens headset.
Microsoft’s primarily pushing HoloLens as a tool in the workplace, however (it costs $3000, or £2719 in the UK), while Apple’s consumer-focused mindset will likely mean that its device would be pushed to the mainstream market at a more affordable price.
Apple has already been working on AR software for years, but it wants to make a dedicated product
Mike Rockwell, who previously led the engineering efforts at Dolby Labs, is at the helm of a team of several hundred engineers from across Apple all working on various hardware and software projects — including the AR headset — under the codename “T288,” Bloomber reports.
Bloomberg reports it’s the same team that was first responsible for ARKit, Apple’s set of tools that allows developers to create augmented reality applications for the iPhone and iPad, and new version of ARKit could debut in 2018. This was just a first step, however, which could ultimately help to bring the new headset to life with a new operating system.
The OS, tentatively dubbed “rOS” (“reality operating system”) internally, would be yet another iteration of iOS, similar to tvOS and watchOS, Bloomberg reports. Geoff Stahl, a former software manager for games and graphics at Apple, is one of the rOS software group’s directors, Bloomberg says.
The company is still at a prototyping stage, and is testing different features and use scenarios
Apple has not yet finalised how users will interact with the headset, Bloomberg reports, though it seems to be exploring three main ways of interactions: Touch, voice (via Siri), and head gestures.
Bloomberg notes that Apple doesn’t have a fully operational headset of its own either, so most of the testing is being done on the HTC Vive virtual reality headset as well a a device similar to an Oculus Gear VR that uses the screen, cameras, and chipsets of the iPhone.