Apple’s long-awaited arrival in the virtual reality market could in fact take the form of an augmented reality headset.
Furthermore, the device is apparently already in development and could be shipped as soon as 2020, a new report from Bloomberg claims.
The unit will apparently not adopt the model seen with the likes of Google Daydream and Samsung’s Gear VR, in which users place their smartphone into a cradle that’s place in front of their eyes. Instead, the unit will have its own display, CPU, GPU and operating system, the latter of which is codenamed rOS (reality operating system).
Apple is said to have not yet decided on the control method, although touch, voice and gesture are all being explored. In lieu of having access to working prototypes, the team are apparently using HTC Vive headsets for testing.
The report says a team was put in place a couple of years ago and is led by former Dolby engineer Mike Rockwell. The group now numbers several hundred people scattered across various offices and working under the codename of ‘T288’.
Indeed, this team was behind the ARKit software suite that developers are already using to create AR apps for smartphones.
Apple boss Tim Cook is said to personally think that AR offers a less isolating experiencer than VR, which closes a user off from their immediate surroundings. Instead, AR brings overlaid computer elements into the physical world. In a recent earnings call Cook even went as far as to say that the company believes “AR is going to change the way we use technology forever”.
However, Cook has also confessed elsewhere that the current available technology isn’t quite where he needs it to be, saying it’s not currently possible to release a system that the company would be happy with. The feeling is that Apple is waiting for the technology to catch up with its ideas.
It’s not waiting when it comes to chips, however, and is reportedly already developing its own AR CPU, GPU and AI system.