Apple has long been rumored to be working on an augmented reality headset or glasses, and despite a recent DigiTimes report claiming the project had been suspended, documentation seen by MacRumors in an internal build of iOS 13 suggests development of a head-mounted augmented reality display has continued.
Namely, internal builds of iOS 13 include a “STARTester” app that can switch in and out of a head-mounted mode, presumably to replicate the functionality of an augmented reality headset on an iPhone for testing purposes. There are two head-mounted states for testing, including “worn” and “held.”
There is also an internal README file in iOS 13 that describes a “StarBoard” system shell for stereo AR-enabled apps, which implies a headset of some kind. The file also suggests Apple is developing an augmented reality device codenamed “Garta,” possibly as one of several prototypes under the “T288” umbrella.
Digging further into the internal iOS 13 code, we uncovered numerous strings related to a so-called “StarBoard mode” and various “views” and “scenes.” Many of the strings reference augmented reality, including “ARStarBoardViewController” and “ARStarBoardSceneManager.”
Multiple sources have claimed that Apple plans to release augmented reality glasses as early as 2020, including analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, CNET, and Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman, who in November 2017 reported that Apple’s headset would run a custom iOS-based operating system dubbed “rOS” for “reality operating system.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook has talked up the prospect of augmented reality several times, saying he views AR as “profound” because the technology “amplifies human performance instead of isolating humans.”
Steve Moser contributed to this report.
Update: Within the internal Find My app bundle that MacRumors exclusively shared last week, there is an icon depicting what appears to be an AR or VR headset that looks similar to the Google Cardboard.
There are “on” and “off” versions of the icon in white and gray respectively, and each has “MockMode” and “B389” in its filename, which is the codename for Apple’s item tracking tags. As such, this icon could simply represent the expected AR mode in the Find My app and likely does not depict Apple’s actual headset.