Apple May Launch Augmented Reality Headset With Custom 'rOS' Operating System by 2020
Apple is ramping up development of an augmented reality headset that will have its own display and run on a new chip and operating system, according to well-connected Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman.
Apple aims to have technology ready for the headset by 2019, and could ship a product as early as 2020, the report claims. But the development timeline is said to be "very aggressive" and could still change.
The headset's custom operating system, based on iOS, is reportedly dubbed "rOS" for "reality operating system."
Just as tvOS powers the Apple TV, macOS runs on Macs and watchOS runs on Apple Watches, "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.
Apple hasn't finalized how users will control the headset and launch apps, but it is investigating touchscreens, Siri voice activation, and head gestures as it creates prototypes, according to the report.
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.
Apple software engineers are said to be using HTC Vive headsets, while working on a device similar to an Oculus Gear VR headset that uses an iPhone's display and other hardware, both for internal testing purposes only.
An augmented reality headset is one of several hardware and software projects that a team of Apple software engineers are supposedly working on under the umbrella code name of "T288" in Cupertino and Sunnyvale.
The same team was behind ARKit, which provides developers with tools to create augmented reality apps for iPhones and iPads.
Gurman previously reported that Apple was considering a pair of smart glasses that would connect wirelessly to an iPhone, much like the Apple Watch, and display "images and other information" to the wearer.
The Financial Times has also reported about Apple experimenting with "several different kinds" of wearable augmented reality prototypes, as it tries to figure out the "most compelling application" for a headset.
Apple CEO Tim Cook alluded to any headset being at least a few years away during a recent interview about augmented reality.
"Today I can tell you that the technology itself doesn't exist to do that in a quality way," Cook said. "We don't give a rats about being first, we want to be best in creating people's experiences. Something that you would see out in the market any time soon would not be something that any of us would be satisfied with."