It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything about Apple’s rumored augmented reality headset — but that doesn’t mean the company isn’t paving the way for that device.
The Cupertino tech giant has been continuing its development of AR technology. For the most part, that development has been kept relatively quiet. But ARKit 2, announced at WWDC ’18, gives us a glimpse at how the technology is progressing.
It may have been easy to miss, particularly if you don’t have access to the latest iOS 12 betas, but Apple has seriously ramped up the capabilities of its existing AR systems.
If you need evidence of that, just take these recent tweets by designer Harley Turan (spotted by Reddit user bwjxjelsbd).
Live image detection and tracking have both gotten huge upgrades in iOS 12 and ARKit 2, as evidenced by Turan’s testing. Turan says that the tracking capabilities of ARKit 2 are “ridiculous,” and added that testing the updated system feels like “playing in the future.”
Similarly, take Turan’s tweet showing off augmented reality web browsing. The system basically seems tailor-made for an augmented reality headset.
Previous ‘Apple Glass’ Rumors
Rumors of a standalone Apple augmented reality device have been circulating around the internet for quite some time. But beyond pure speculation, there’s actually some hard evidence that Apple is indeed developing such a device.
That includes a report suggesting the company has already tapped one of its supply partners to help build out the headsets. Another Apple supplier entered into an agreement with a manufacturer of AR-related components. And Apple executives allegedly met with another supplier of AR components at CES ’18.
Bloomberg has published a number of reports, citing insiders at Apple, that point toward a standalone AR device that runs on its own operating system: rOS. Reports suggest that “rOS” could have its own stable of apps and an App Store.
This device wouldn’t need a connected iPhone to access the internet. In other words, it could function as more of a replacement for a smartphone than an accessory wearable.
Based on the current evidence, this device could be more akin to an actual pair of eyeglasses than any existing VR headset on the market. It’s also worth venturing that it would look more like an actual pair of glasses than the ill-fated Google Glass project.
These reports were also corroborated by a CNET story in April, which suggested that the wearable could actually be a “mixed-reality device” — with support for both augmented and virtual reality.
While Apple could change or scrap the planned device, it’s looking increasingly likely that we’ll see Apple Glass (or something similar) in the near future.
As far as a launch timeline, however, it’s still a couple years off. Bloomberg previously reported that the underlying technology could be ready by 2019, but most analysts and Apple watchers agree that a release date in 2020 — at the earliest — is the most likely.