Why we’re not boarding the Apple AR headset hype train just yet

It’s no secret Tim Cook believes that in the battle between VR and AR, the latter will take the crown. In a recent interview with Alphr, Cook said AR is a less isolating than virtual reality and is the next step in gaming, digital healthcare and beyond.

Why we're not boarding the Apple AR headset hype train just yet

And you only need to look at the huge efforts Apple has put into ARKit to see this isn’t just spitballing. So when reports started circulating that Apple is fast-tracking development into an AR headset, it doesn’t seem beyond the realms of possibility.

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A patent in the summer, and a Bloomberg report out today, suggests Apple’s AR headset is going to be groundbreaking.

 From the “leaked” details, the AR headset will have a display of its own, instead of relying on the display of an iPhone. It’s going to run on a new operating system, called rOS (Reality Operating System) which works in a similar way to iOS or watchOS, and it could even be ready as soon as 2019. 

The company is additionally said to be developing its own chip, made especially for the device, and it’s rumoured to contain Siri, touch panels and head gestures; all in all, it sounds very Apple. Still, this runs contrary to what some of Apple’s key execs have been saying in recent months, and it doesn’t entirely match up with the timeline, so don’t blame us if we’re a little wary of jumping straight onto the hype train.

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Mike Rockwell and his team at Apple started work on AR two years ago. Since then, the team has produced ARKit, a tool for developers which allows users to interact with their surroundings in the real world. Rumours about an AR headset have been bountiful ever since, but it’s a device which Apple has been quick to dismiss in the past.

When we sat down with Cook in a London apartment last month, he dismissed the claims the headset was imminent.

“Current headsets don’t have the range of vision you get when using AR kit on a phone so we’re not there yet. I don’t want to say what Apple is working on next but the tech just isn’t there,” he told us.

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And it’s not just Cook who has suggested the technology for an AR headset isn’t available yet. Chief Design Officer, Jony Ive, told a technology panel last month that “there are certain ideas we have and we are waiting for the technology to catch up with the idea.”

That’s not to mention it’s unlikely Apple would develop a product that takes people away from the iPhone in such a way, or isn’t as connected to the rest of its ecosystem. 

So while we want to be excited about Apple’s AR headset – and trust us, we’re definitely not saying it’s not happening – we aren’t holding our breath for it to be fast-tracked. If Cook said that the technology wasn’t there just last month, and Ive is seemingly waiting for other, third parties to develop the tech, will it have already caught up by 2019 and will Apple be the company to do it? 

Only time will tell, but we won’t be getting truly invested in the speculative headset until we hear it from Apple themselves.

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