Apple Is Ramping Up Work on AR Headset to Succeed iPhone

Apple Inc., seeking a breakthrough product to succeed the iPhone, aims to have technology ready for an augmented-reality headset in 2019 and could ship a product as early as 2020.

Unlike the current generation of virtual reality headsets that use a smartphone as the engine and screen, Apple’s device will have its own display and run on a new chip and operating system, according to people familiar with the situation. The development timeline is very aggressive and could still change, said the people, who requested anonymity to speak freely about a private matter.

While virtual reality immerses the user in a digital world, augmented reality overlays images and data on the real one. The applications for AR are endless, from a basketball fan getting stats while watching a game to a mechanic streaming instructions on how to fix a specific piece of equipment. Apple isn’t the only company working on the technology. Google, which drew derision for $1,500 smart glasses a few years ago, is developing a business-oriented variant. Startup Meta has developed a headset with a focus on education and medical uses.

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook considers AR less isolating than VR and as potentially revolutionary as the smartphone. He has talked up the technology on Good Morning America and gives it as almost much attention during earnings calls as sales growth. “We’re already seeing things that will transform the way you work, play, connect and learn,” he said in the most recent call. “Put simply, we believe AR is going to change the way we use technology forever.”

Apple declined to comment.

The company began putting together a team to work on AR-related projects a couple of years ago, Bloomberg reported in March. Led by Mike Rockwell, who previously ran engineering at Dolby Labs, the group has now grown to several hundred engineers from across Apple, the people said. Scattered across office parks in both Cupertino and…

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