With the iPhone X released into the wild, the potentially trillion-dollar question now surrounding Apple is: What's next?
While it may be another newly designed iPhone, one report hints at something truly different and possibly revolutionary: an augmented reality headset. And as Apple gets closer to potentially becoming the world's first trillion-dollar publicly traded company, it needs to continue to surprise and amaze its fans with "one more thing."
AR headsets have been developed by other tech competitors with little success so far, from Google Glass to Microsoft Hololens -- which uses both augmented reality and virtual reality -- and even Snapchat's Spectacles. But unlike these headsets, which remain tethered to a smartphone or a computer, Apple's rumored AR headset would run independently, thanks to a new chip and operating system, according to Bloomberg, which broke the news Wednesday.
If Apple is able to meet its goal, the company could announce the product in 2019 and ship it for release in 2020, Bloomberg reported.
With public support from Apple CEO Tim Cook [pictured here], Apple sees augmented reality as a possible next step in its future. In its newest iOS mobile operating system iteration, Apple introduced ARKit, an augmented reality platform that allows apps to overlay three-dimensional graphics on top of real-world viewing through the iPhone and iPad. ARKit-developed apps so far have seen success reaching the consumer market via the App Store.
Cook said in an interview last month that quality AR headsets or glasses are not there yet technologically.
"I can tell you the technology itself doesn't exist to do that in a quality way," Cook told British newspaper The Independent. "The display technology required, as well as putting enough stuff around your face -- there's huge challenges with that. The field of view, the quality of the display itself, it's not there yet."
Apple's push to create an AR headset has been expansive and aggressive, according to Bloomberg. After creating ARKit, hundreds of engineers led by former Dolby executive Mike Rockwell have been working on the headset project in office parks scattered around Cupertino and Sunnyvale, under the codename "T288."
The new AR operating system is also dubbed "rOS," much like tvOS is for Apple TV and macOS is for Macs, Bloomberg reported.
Apple's team has used HTC Vive headsets as it works to develop a prototype for its own headset. One working prototype to internally test AR apps looks like an Oculus Gear headset with iPhone's screen, cameras and chipsets, according to Bloomberg.
Apple's hope is to squeeze its graphics processors, AI chip and CPU into a smaller, one-size-fits-all package, akin to what it has done for the Apple Watch, the Bloomberg article stated. The small surface area also saves battery life, which will be crucial to run intensive graphics from the headset.
In the meantime, Apple is banking on the potential of ARKit apps to revolutionize a mobile user's relationship with the iPhone.
"Put simply, we believe AR is going to change the way we use technology forever," said Cook, during Apple's latest earnings call.
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