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Apple Is Moving Forward on an Augmented Reality Headset

Apple’s next big product launch might not be what you expect.

The tech giant is moving forward with an augmented reality headset that could make its way to store shelves in 2020, Bloomberg is reporting, citing people who claim to have knowledge of its plans. Apple hopes to be able to have the requisite technology to make its headset a reality by 2019 and then get it to customers soon after.

Apple has been publicly bullish on augmented reality instead of virtual reality. Augmented reality overlays virtual objects on the real world and can be used in a variety of ways, including in video games, corporate settings, and more. Virtual reality places a user inside a virtual world, completely removing them from the physical world.

While there have been reports previously that Apple has been working on an augmented reality headset, Apple CEO Tim Cook threw water on the idea last month, when he told The Independent in an interview that “the technology itself doesn’t exist” to create augmented reality glasses that would work “in a quality way.” He said he’s especially concerned with the “display technology” that would be required to place virtual elements over the real world.

In an earnings call last week, Cook hinted that a big augmented reality push could be coming from his company and said that new technologies “will transform the way you work, play, connect, and learn.”

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Some of Apple’s competitors, including Microsoft and Google, have already delivered augmented reality headsets. Microsoft’s HoloLens, for instance, can be used in the enterprise to aid people in their jobs. Waiting until 2020 to release a competing device might seem like Apple is far behind.

However, during his interview with The Independent, Cook said he wasn’t concerned about “being first.” Instead, he wants Apple “to be the best.”

“Now anything you would see on the market any time soon would not be something any of us would be satisfied with,” Cook said. “Nor do I think the vast majority of people would be satisfied.”

According to Bloomberg, the team building Apple’s headset is also designing a processor that would power the device, as well as a new operating system it’s currently calling rOS, or “reality operating system.” Several key features are still up in the air, including how users would use the headset and whether Siri voice activation should be part of the user experience. And even though the headset is still more than two years from release, Bloomberg’s sources said Apple’s launch schedule is ambitious.