Apple Working on Custom Chip and Operating System Dubbed ‘rOS’ for Augmented Reality Headset

Oculus Rift

A report from Bloomberg details that Apple is working on an AR headset which it hopes to get ready in 2019 so that it can be shipped as a consumer product in 2020. Unlike the existing AR and VR headsets in the market, Apple’s solution will have its own display and run on an entirely new chip and OS.

The product is in early stages of development with a very aggressive schedule so things can and likely will change. Apple started putting a team to work on its AR-related projects almost two years ago. The team is led by Mike Rockwell and now consists of hundreds of engineers scattered across the company’s office in Cupertino and California. The team is working on a bevvy of software and hardware AR projects under the codename “T288.”

Since a virtual headset requires a power efficient chip which sips battery, Apple is designing one in-house similar to the one it uses on the Apple Watch. The VR headset will run a new OS dubbed “rOS” internally which stands for “reality operating system” and is based on iOS.  Apple is still investigating how users would be able to interact with the headset and launch apps on it. The company has so far looked into touch panels, voice commands via Siri, and head gestures. It is also testing a wide range of AR-based applications like mapping, texting, virtual meeting rooms, 360-degree video playback, and more. Like with almost all other operating systems it offers, Apple is also looking to offer an App Store for ‘rOS’ thereby allowing users to download apps for the reality headset.

Since Apple engineers don’t have prototype units of their own, they are making use of HTC’s Vive headset for their testing. In addition to this standalone headset, Apple engineers are also working on a Gear VR-like headset in which an iPhone would act as the screen. This product is only meant for internal use in the company for testing AR apps though.

Between AR and VR, Apple is putting its money on the former. Augmented Reality overlays virtual things over the real one for a new experience, while in VR, the user is immersed in a completely different digital world. In his previous interviews, Tim Cook had sung wide praises of AR and how it could be the next big thing like smartphones.

With iOS 11, Apple introduced ARKit which has led to a string of AR-based apps being available for iPhones and iPads. It has also made it possible for millions of users to get their first taste of augmented reality.

[Via Bloomberg]