Apple’s first AR headset spilled by iOS 13

By

Taeyeon Kim
Nope, they're not canceled.
Photo: Taeyeon Kim

Apple is still developing its own augmented reality headset, according to code discovered in iOS 13.

Internal builds of the software include a “STARTester” app for switching in and out of a headset mode, according to a new report. It offers two modes, including “worn” and “held.”

Researchers also uncovered a text file that describes a “StarBoard” system for stereo AR apps.

Rumors surrounding an Apple AR headset have been circulating for years now, but a recent sketchy report from DigiTimes claimed the project had been scrapped, with the team behind it being disbanded in May.

Now it looks even more likely that work on Apple’s secret AR glasses project continues. Newly discovered files in internal iOS 13 builds suggest Apple is still developing an AR headset of its own, codenamed “Garta.”

iOS 13 hints at ongoing “Garta” project

In addition to the STARTester app and StarBoard README file, iOS 13 includes “numerous strings related to a so-called ‘StarBoard mode’ and various ‘views’ and ‘scenes,'” reports MacRumors. “Many of the strings reference augmented reality, including ‘ARStarBoardViewController’ and ‘ARStarBoardSceneManager.'”

Given that these references remain in iOS 13, which Apple did not release in beta form until two months after the supposed cancellation of the AR glasses project, there’s good reason to believe work is ongoing.

When will we see Apple’s AR glasses?

Several sources, including reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, previously predicted that Apple could debut its AR glasses as early as 2020.

Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman claimed in November 2017 the glasses will run a custom version of iOS dubbed “rOS” for “reality operating system.”

Apple back in April expanded its Mac Pro trademark to include “augmented reality display, goggles, controllers, headsets, and 3D spectacles,” while AR has become a bigger focus for the company.

Apple’s interest in AR

Apple recently kicked off augmented reality art sessions through the Apple Store, four months after naming a senior executive to head up its AR marketing efforts.

Meanwhile, updates to iOS continue to expand and improve upon Apple’s ARKit framework for AR apps, and iOS 13 includes a “huge amount” of evidence for AR devices, according to developer Steve Troughton-Smith.

Apple CEO Tim Cook previously said augmented reality is hugely important to Apple. “I think it is profound,” he said in June 2017. “I am so excited about it, I just want to yell out and scream.”