Apple is reportedly working on a standalone augmented reality headset, which would be ready by 2019 and ship by 2020, according to Bloomberg. Apple has already launched its ARKit with iOS 11 this year, so an Apple AR headset is not much of a surprise.
Apple AR headset to have a screen, a chip and OS
The Apple AR headset will be unique, as it will have its own display, a chip and an OS, says Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the situation. The virtual reality headsets that are presently on the market use the smartphone as the engine and screen. The OS that the Apple AR headset would use will be specially designed, and is being referred to as the “rOS” or “reality operating system.” Geoff Stahl, who previously was the software manager for games and graphics at Apple, is one of the directors of the group responsible for the development of “rOS,” says Bloomberg.
According to Bloomberg, the iPhone maker is currently experimenting with ways in which the headset can be operated, like using Siri, head gestures or a touch panel. As the prototype of the headset is still not complete, Apple is reportedly using HTC Vive VR and Oculus Gear VR headsets to progress with its efforts. Further, Bloomberg notes that the company is exploring several uses of the headset like mapping, virtual meeting rooms and messaging.
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Bloomberg notes that Apple’s development timeline for the AR headset is “very aggressive” and could still change. This is in line with what CEO Tim Cook said last month while addressing rumors of the AR glasses. At the time, Cook said that such a product won’t be ready “anytime soon.”
In August, a report from Financial Times also noted that Apple is working on different kinds of AR wearable prototypes to figure out the best application for an AR headset. Further, the report noted that one of the teams is working on a pair of glasses that are equipped with a 3D camera, but no screen.
Big potential in AR
Apple’s interest in augmented reality has long been known. In a recent earnings report, CEO Tim Cook said that the AR technology will “change the way we use technology forever.”
“We’re already seeing things that will transform the way you work, play, connect and learn.” Cook said.
Cook believes augmented reality is a more important technology than virtual reality. The VR technology takes the user out of the real world to a digital one, while the AR tech overlays digital information onto the viewer’s line of sight. Oculus, HTC and Microsoft’s new “Mixed Reality” headsets are based on VR tech.
Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that Apple started developing a team for AR-related projects about two years back. The AR team, which is led by Mike Rockwell, now reportedly includes hundreds of engineers. Rockwell previously ran engineering at Dolby Labs. Apple’s AR team, under the umbrella code name of “T288,” is working on many hardware and software projects, notes Bloomberg. The same team developed the ARKit, Apple’s first major step into augmented reality.
If Apple wants to lead the segment, it will have to learn from the mistakes that Google made with the Google Glass. With the Google Glass, the search giant tried to get AR into the mainstream, but privacy concerns marred its ambitions. The product is now being offered to enterprise users.