Rumor: Apple working on augmented reality headset for 2020 release

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Date: Thursday, November 9th, 2017, 03:42
Category: Augmented Reality, Developer, Hardware, Processors, Rumor

It looks like Apple may be betting on an augmented reality headset.

The company is said to be working to have the technology ready for an augmented-reality headset in 2019 and could ship a product as early as 2020.

Unlike the current generation of virtual reality headsets that use a smartphone as the engine and screen, Apple’s device will have its own display and run on a new chip and operating system, according to sources close to the story. The development timeline is very aggressive and could still change, said the people, who requested anonymity to speak freely about a private matter.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, who has stated that augmented reality is less isolating than virtual reality and as potentially revolutionary as the smartphone, has stated that “We’re already seeing things that will transform the way you work, play, connect and learn. Put simply, we believe AR is going to change the way we use technology forever.”

Apple itself has declined to comment.

The company has been said to have had a teaming working on assorted AR-related products for a couple of years now. The team, led by Mike Rockwell, who previously ran engineering at Dolby Labs, has now grown to several hundred engineers from across Apple, the sources said. Scattered across office parks in both Cupertino and Sunnyvale, California, the team is working on several hardware and software projects under the umbrella code name of “T288.”

The team’s first product was ARKit, tools that outside software developers use to create AR applications for the latest iPhones and iPads, leveraging their screens, cameras and processors to create virtual 3-D interfaces for online shopping, education and gaming. This was an interim step, giving Apple an opportunity to test the technology on an existing product.

Apple’s next major augmented reality product seems to be the creation of a headset with a built-in display capable of streaming 3D video without draining the battery. Cook has acknowledged the project and stated that “Anything you would see on the market any time soon would not be something any of us would be satisfied with.” Referring to challenges creating displays, Chief Design Officer Jony Ive told a tech panel last month that “there are certain ideas that we have and we are waiting for the technology to catch up with the idea.”

Apple is also thought to be creating its own processors for the project.

Where software is concerned, the new operating system, which has been internally dubbed “rOS” for “reality operating system,” is based on iOS, the iPhone’s operating system. The “rOS” will power Apple’s AR headset. Geoff Stahl, formerly a software manager for games and graphics at Apple, is one of the directors of the “rOS” software group.

While Apple has yet to finalize how users will control the headset and launch apps, the company is said to be investigating touch panels, voice-activation via Siri and head gestures. Engineers are prototyping a range of applications, from mapping and texting to more advanced features including virtual meeting rooms and 360-degree video playback. The company has discussed pairing the headset with its own version of the App Store, where users would be able to download content, just as they do with the iPhone, Watch, Apple TV and Mac.

Since the company doesn’t have a fully operational headset of its own, it’s rumored that Apple engineers are using HTC Vive headsets for testing purposes. It’s also been rumored that the group is working on a device similar to an Oculus Gear VR headset that uses an iPhone’s screen, cameras and chipsets. Apple doesn’t plan to sell the gadget but instead aims to use it internally to test AR apps next year.

Finally, Apple is said to be working on a new version of its ARKit tools to distribute to the developer community as soon as 2018.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Via Bloomberg

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