We have heard rumors for quite some time about the possibility of Apple building an augmented reality headset. The new iPhone 11 series, with its spatially aware U1 chip, is more suited to AR than ever before. And now, a Digitimes report indicates that Apple may be collaborating with Valve to develop its own AR headset.
Why is a supposed Valve partnership so interesting? This is because Valve owns Steam, the world’s largest PC game distribution service. Valve has a virtual monopoly on PC game sales. They also developed their own virtual reality headset, the Steam Index.
Valve and Apple’s History of AR/VR Collaboration
This wouldn’t be the first time Valve cooperated with Apple in the AR and the VR arenas. As early as 2017, a Valve collaboration brought virtual reality support to Mac High Sierra in a very unique way. VR experiences demand very high levels of GPU power: this is something that the integrated Mac GPUs can’t provide. Instead, the solution leveraged the Mac’s eGPU capabilities over Thunderbolt to make VR possible.
Digitimes reported on the possible partnership. This is what they had to say about it:
“Apple will cooperate with Valve on AR headsets rather than VR devices, as its CEO Tim Cook believes that AR can make digital content become part of the user’s world and will be as popular as smartphones with consumers. This has also promoted Apple to step up the development of AR software by recruiting more engineers for graphic design, system interface and system architecture segments.”
This report is in line with predictions that Apple Analyst Ming Chu Kuo has made in the past. Kuo states that was working with third parties to create and launch an HR device. He believes it’ll be out as early as 2020.
MacRumors uncovered further evidence of the Apple AR headset. In an internal build of iOS 13, they found the option to enable a STARTest mode, which allows users to enable or disable head-mounted mode. This was found in association with several mentions in the iOS 13 code of something called “Garta.”
Between the persistent rumors and the evidence found in iOS 13’s codebase, we think it’s very likely that Apple will launch a product in the AR space soon. And this may well be done in collaboration with Valve. Exactly what it will involve is still something that remains to be seen, though.