Apple CEO Tim Cook has not been shy about his admiration for augmented reality, and how the company thinks its a potentially huge deal for everyone from regular Joes and Janes to big business. And now it looks like the company might be looking to officially release its headset in 2020.
That's according to Bloomberg, which has a fairly extensive report on what Apple's planning. The headset will have its own display and use a custom system-on-a-chip, just like the Apple Watch currently does. It'll also use a new operating system built out of iOS called rOS, short for "reality operating system", according to Bloomberg.
Apple has an "aggressive" timeline for the device, hoping to officially unveil it in 2019 and shipping it in 2020. It's being built by the same team building on ARKit, which Bloomberg confirms was a first step to testing and building an AR ecosystem before the hardware was ready. As we've seen from other AR developers, minimizing technology to work in an AR headset is still a difficult proposition.
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. It wouldn't say which company it would make AR components for, but given its key relationship with Apple it's hard not to assume it's anyone but the Cupertino company.
Apple hasn't yet finalized how users will control the headset and launch apps, but Apple typically "locks" device designs 12 months before shipping, which still gives the company most of 2018 to do so. Currently, Apple is looking at touch panels, Siri control, and head gestures. In addition, Apple is also prototyping applications, which include AR versions of existing Apple apps like Maps and Messages and new apps like a virtual meeting room and 360-degree video playback.
And of course, Apple is looking to introduce an rOS App Store that would allow users of Apple's AR headset to download apps. Somewhat oddly, Bloomberg says Apple has been using an HTC Vive to test things out. It's even developing a version of the Samsung Gear VR for iPhone, though it's only for internal use and will not be for sale, claims the report.
Since that headset is at least two years away from release, Apple will - in the short term - continue to look to make it as easy as possible for developers to create AR experiences with ARKit. Bloomberg says that alongside iOS 12 next year, Apple will update ARKit with persistent tracking, which will accurately remember where a digital object was placed in the real world. So if you look away from a scene and then look back, the object you placed will be in the exact same place.