Apple is hoping to complete the development of its own augmented reality headset by 2019, according to a report from Bloomberg. Unlike most current mobile-based virtual reality setups, which fully immerse a user in a digital world, Apple's headset will have its own display, operating system, and system-on-a-chip (SoC).
The chip, according to the publication, will be similar in concept to the SoC found in the Apple Watch.
This is where the custom-built processor and operating system, internally dubbed rOS (reality operating system) will come in.
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Apple began developing its own augmented reality platform a couple of years ago and that ended up being ARKit, which now live natively inside devices running iOS 11. Apple's use of full-faced devices such as the HTC Vive suggests that instead of trying to tackle the hard and expensive problem of lightfield technology Apple may simply be going for a simpler passthrough system where the only challenge would be to improve latency to an acceptable level.
However, Cook also recently told The Independent that the technology needed to build such a product the right way simply "doesn't exist", and that Apple is more concerned with being the best on the market than the first. This type of chip would allow Apple to put more components inside a smaller chassis than a standard processor.
In an earnings call last week, Cook hinted that a big augmented reality push could be coming from his company and said that new technologies "will transform the way you work, play, connect, and learn".
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The report says Apple is also putting together its own version of Gear VR for internal testing, using the phone's hardware to make a rudimentary AR headset. Microsoft has been squarely focused on business applications for its $3000 HoloLens headset, while at the same time using some of its technology to develop cheaper virtual reality devices. Several key features are still up in the air, including how users would use the headset and whether Siri voice activation should be part of the user experience.
Apple has been publicly bullish on augmented reality instead of virtual reality. The team is supposedly led by Mike Rockwell, who used to be charge of engineering at Dolby Labs.
Cook has repeatedly said that he thinks augmented reality will be a revolutionary technology. His team at Apple has drown for a few hundred engineers spread out among both of Apple's campuses in Cupertino and Sunnyvale, with several hardware and software projects being worked on. It's possible that users will be able to download and install apps from an AR app store, much like they do across other Apple devices. The range of AR apps that are now being prototyped is said to include mapping and texting applications, as well as more advanced tools, such as virtual meeting rooms and 360-degree video playback.
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