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Apple reportedly readying standalone AR headset for 2019

Apple wants to have a standalone augmented reality headset ready for use by 2019, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The company’s interest in the technology is well-established, with CEO Tim Cook stating in a recent earnings report that Apple believes “AR is going to change the way we use technology forever.” The company took a first major step into augmented reality this year, with the launch of ARKit in iOS 11.

According to Bloomberg, the planned AR headset would have its own display, a new chip, and a specially-designed operating system, currently referred to internally as “rOS” or “reality operating system.” Apple’s engineers are reportedly exploring a number of ways that users might control the headset, including head gestures, touch panels, and voice control via Siri.

With prototype headsets still in the works, Apple’s designers are reportedly using HTC Vive VR headsets to test the limitations and potential of an AR device. Applications they’re exploring, says Bloomberg, include mapping, messaging, and “virtual meeting rooms.” If Bloomberg is correct, Apple is working to an ambitious schedule, aiming to have the device ready by 2019, with the possibility of shipping it to consumers in 2020.

So far, virtual reality and augmented reality headsets have failed to find widespread appeal. However, AR devices — which overlay digital information onto the viewer’s line of sight — have been shown to be practical in certain environments. Microsoft’s HoloLens headset, for example, is being used by Ford to visualize new car designs, while Google Glass is finding a second life in factories.

It’s clear, though, from Cook’s statements that Apple believes augmented reality can have a much broader appeal. The Apple CEO says AR is much less isolating than VR, and has described the technology as being as potentially revolutionary as the smartphone.

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