Apple may release AR headset 2020: Can it compete?

Jony Ive

Citing unnamed sources "familiar with the situation", Bloomberg reports that Cupertino is moving ahead with the development of an AR headset, which it aims to start selling by 2020-a loose deadline that could be pushed back.

Just like the Apple Watch, the augmented reality headset will have its own microprocessor and its own version of an operating system called rOS, which we presume will be based off of iOS just like watchOS and tvOS.

This is where the custom-built processor and operating system, internally dubbed rOS (reality operating system) will come in. But while we wait for a hardware announcement, Apple will reportedly release a new version of ARKit next year that will have more advanced tracking abilities. In a recent earnings report, CEO Tim Cook said that the AR technology will "change the way we use technology forever".

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Cook believes augmented reality is a more important technology than virtual reality. Moving that experience to something that lets you keep your hands free will feel more natural and could help push augmented reality into the consumer mainstream. The release of the device is at least two years away, but the 2020-ish launch will likely be preceded by an announcement and developer SDK in 2019. Having ARKit was the company's way of testing out augmented reality on its existing products, while the AR glasses would be Apple's next big step. They're reportedly working on multiple hardware and software projects under the codename "T288".

As with previous products, Apple isn't waiting around for someone else to create a chip capable of powering its AR headset.

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. The range of AR apps that are now being prototyped is said to include mapping and texting applications, as well as more advanced tools, such as virtual meeting rooms and 360-degree video playback.

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Bloomberg said an Apple team is building the headset and a special chip for it.

Apple's interest in augmented reality has always been known.

ARKit allows developers to build their own AR apps for Apple's iPhones and iPads, making use of the devices' front-facing cameras to map rooms and track objects. Apple is said to be discussing the possibility of launching a new type of App Store for the headset where users can download compatible AR apps.

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