Apple’s rumoured augmented reality headset coming in 2020

Although Apple hasn’t confirmed the existence of its augmented reality headset project, evidence suggests it is going ahead and that it will be released at some point next year. Let’s take a look at what we know so far.
The Apple logo hanging in an Apple store
There are a number of clues which suggest Apple is working on an AR headset, or two. Photo: Andrew via Flickr

Rumours of an Apple AR project have been doing the rounds for a couple of years now.

Many would agree that Apple’s hardware offering in recent years hasn’t been quite as groundbreaking as the Apple of old.

However, it looks like that might be about to change. A number of patent leaks have hinted that Apple has been developing various AR-related components for years now.

According to Tech Radar, there have been 53 AR-related patents granted to Apple, covering everything from 3D mapping technology to special lenses which can project images into a user’s eye.

Not only has Apple been snapping up patents left right and centre, it’s also been buying up smaller companies across the AR industry.

Apple’s acquisitions over the past couple of years include start ups in the AR optics, special effects and lens fields.

Perhaps the most tangible evidence pointing towards an Apple AR project

As far as evidence for an Apple AR project goes, patents and acquisitions are pretty strong.

The clearest indicator, however, is technically right before our eyes. The latest version of iOS, iOS 13, was released less than a month ago. As always, people have already dug through the code and they’ve revealed a few clues as to what Apple might have in store for us next year.

The iOS 13 code diggers uncovered various ‘readme’ files relating to AR development apps and software within the new operating system. One of these, StarBoard, allows developers to view stereo-enabled AR apps on an iPhone.

An Apple iPhone 11
The iOS 13 code seems to suggest that the iPhone will do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to processing. Photo: pxhere

Also found deep within the iOS 13 code are two codenamed device settings, called ‘Luck’ and ‘Frank’.

It seems like these two codenames relate to two different AR headsets which may currently be in development at Apple.

Rather than standalone AR headsets with their own processing power, the code suggests that Luck and Frank will mainly act as AR user interfaces, with most of the heavy processing work being handled by the iPhone itself.

What are Apple’s competitors up to?

Oculus VR was the first company to release a successful, modern VR headset with its Oculus Rift back in 2016.

Although the Oculus Rift proved popular with gamers, it was still a long way from offering users a true AR experience.

Microsoft’s Hololens was also released in 2016, and while it was a true AR headset, its price and size meant it was more targeted towards a business user base. Microsoft has since launched the Hololens 2, which is significantly smaller and less cumbersome than its predecessor.

Microsoft Hololens
Microsoft’s Hololens has been out for a few years now. Jorge Figueroa via Flickr

Now, a number of companies appear to be working on AR headsets targeted towards a consumer audience.

Facebook is reportedly working on AR glasses which will be ready for consumers between 2023-25.

Through partnerships with designer brands, such as Ray-Ban and Luxottica, Facebook hopes to set its product apart from the competition, which has so far been restricted by the size of current generation AR systems.

If the rumours are to be believed, it looks like Apple will get there way before Facebook.

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