It’s no secret that Apple’s been quietly trying to build an augmented reality headset. Over the past several years, Apple has hired, acquired, attempted to patent and repeatedly talked up the idea — Apple CEO Tim Cook called AR as big an idea as the smartphone, and reportedly had 1,000 engineers working on the tech in 2017.
But despite repeated rumors that Apple is getting ready to produce such a headset — Bloomberg, CNET and reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo have all suggested Apple’s aiming to produce it in 2019 and ship it in 2020 — it’s only today that we’re seeing what appears to be explicit confirmation from Apple itself that an AR headset is being tested inside the company.
StarBoard. Garta. If you’ve been following Apple AR headset rumors closely, you’ve heard these codenames before — perhaps alongside Luck, Franc, and HoloKit, all of which have recently appeared in internal builds of iOS 13, according to reports from 9to5Mac and MacRumors. But now, Troughton-Smith and 9to5Mac’s Guilherme Rambo say they’ve somehow made their way to semi-public, developer-facing betas and masters of iOS 13, too.
But it’s not clear what the scope of Apple ambitions are right now — whether we’re talking about the fabled Apple Glasses, the 8K-resolution standalone AR+VR headset that CNETspoke about in 2018, or perhaps something less interesting. More recently, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that the first product would be more of an iPhone accessory, which might line up with the idea of apps having both “worn” and “held” modes, and happens to be what Rambo recently reported as well.
That report suggested these codenames might refer to something more akin to Samsung Gear VR or Google’s Cardboard: a nifty viewer you might sometimes pull out when you want to slot in a phone. And that might suggest Apple may not try to put these tester devices on shelves, because Tim Cook has publicly said Apple won’t ship an AR product until it can deliver “a great experience,” something he didn’t believe was possible with existing concepts.
For now, it’s merely the most explicit sign yet that Apple is indeed working on an AR headset.