Why it matters: Apple has been working behind the scenes on an augmented reality headset for quite sometime now, and the latest iOS 13 and 13.1 beta releases have been found to contain a "StarBoard" framework that developers have linked with the company's AR hardware, expected to be unveiled in 2020.
As expected, Apple has always kept mum on its AR ambitions until last year when an insider leaked details on the company's 5 nm chipset that'll be powering its augmented reality headset, codenamed T288, with a scheduled release in 2020.
In March this year, it was reported that the headset could go into mass production by Q4'19 or Q2'20 at the latest, according to notable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
With the arrival of iOS 13 and 13.1 beta in the hands of developers, more evidence has appeared that the hardware is being tested internally, through the presence of a "StarBoard" system shell in the OS code.
StarBoard frameworks on iOS 13 now. StarBoard is Apple’s system shell for stereo augmented reality apps (headset). Guess secrecy is out? pic.twitter.com/XTnlqQgpHh— Steve Troughton-Smith (@stroughtonsmith) September 10, 2019
There's also a readme file, apparently instructing employees on how to run Stereo AR apps on an iPhone without the AR headset.
The iOS 13 GM also comes with a readme file (!) for how employees can run Stereo AR apps on an iPhone when you don't have access to Apple's headset pic.twitter.com/SeZEHW8p0S— Steve Troughton-Smith (@stroughtonsmith) September 10, 2019
Although no announcement was made by Apple in its iPhone event yesterday, Guilherme Rambo from 9to5Mac notes that the company may have pulled it out at the very last minute. He's also previously described it as the following:
Engineers have also been developing support for stereo AR in iOS – as reported by 9to5Mac back in April – but the project may not be the “Apple Glasses” everyone has been talking about. It consists of support for a face-mounted AR experience, which can be compared to Google’s Daydream, and has been in internal testing with support for two Apple devices (codenamed Luck and Franc) and a third-party device, HoloKit.
Stereo AR apps on iPhone work similar to CarPlay, with support for stereo AR declared in the app’s manifest. These apps can run in either “held mode”, which is basically normal AR mode, or “worn mode”, which is when used with one of these external devices. A new system shell – called StarBoard – hosts extensions that support the new AR mode, similar to how WatchKit apps worked in the original Watch."