Apple reportedly working on augmented reality headset for 2019

Jony Ive

While it may be another newly designed iPhone, one report hints at something truly different and possibly revolutionary: an augmented reality headset.

Speaking of hardware, Apple's metal framing and case supplier for the iPhone, Catcher Technology, says it will start making lightweight casing for augmented reality devices, reports Nikkei. That name could change by the time this new AR ecosystem is ready for a reveal, but considering the names of Apple's other operating systems (macOS, tvOS), it could very well stick. This year's launch of ARKit with iOS 11 has laid down the groundwork for future development of the technology.

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. Apple engineers are using HTC Vive headsets to test their ideas for a wide range of applications, from mapping and texting to more futuristic things like virtual meeting rooms and 360-degree video feeds.

The Apple AR headset is said to have its own display and run a new chip with a new operating system, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman.

Apple engineers are said to be now prototyping a range of applications for use in AR, reportedly using HTC Vive headsets for testing them.

Microsoft, of course, is already well ensconced in the AR/VR world, having launched a v1 HoloLens past year as a $3,000 Developers Edition, and has talked about a HoloLens version 2, with built-in AI processing, but that device apparently won't ship until 2019. Simply put, he said, Apple believes AR is forever going to change the way we use technology. The new operating system - dubbed "rOS" for "reality operating system" - is based on iOS, but Apple is far from finalizing how users will control the device, investigating voice control through Siri, head gestures and touch panels as possibilities.

Think the Apple Watch family's "System in Package", combining a CPU, graphics processor, AI chip and possibly even more components to occupy significantly less space than a conventional smartphone SoC. Previous year it was reported Apple was working on its own version of Google Glass - smart glasses created to display images and information in its wearer's line of vision. This is in line with what CEO Tim Cook said last month while addressing rumors of the AR glasses. The company is also discussing using its own version of the App Store within the device so users can easily download apps they want to play or use.

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