Apple’s on-again, off-again smart headset project is currently back on, and rumors are pointing to the company working with Valve, the video game publisher also responsible for the Steam online game portal, to produce the accessory. The news comes from well-known — but not always reliable — online source DigiTimes, which says Apple is working with Valve on “AR head-mounted display devices,” and preparing to release them during the second half of 2020.
The report adds that Apple is working with Quanta Computer and Pegatron to assemble the units, but does not go into detail on how the headsets will work, what they will look like, or the features we can expect. The rumors come from anonymous industry sources, and should therefore be treated as speculation for now. However, it is not the first time we have heard about Apple’s augmented reality plans.
At the beginning of October, TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo wrote in a report that Apple was collaborating with third-party brands on the headset, but did not state which brands were involved. The DigiTimes report seems to build on from Kuo’s information, linking Valve with the project. In the same report, a release date for the second half of 2020 was also given.
Valve may be best known for Steam or games including Half-Life, but it also has its own virtual reality headset, the Valve Index, which was announced in May of this year. Previously, it worked with HTC on the HTC Vive VR and Vive Pro headset. Apple’s headset, whatever form it may eventually take on, has been repeatedly linked with augmented reality content, rather than solely virtual reality, and this is certainly the direction the industry generally seems to be taking.
We’ve also seem something similar to Apple’s rumored plan before. Samsung’s work on the Gear VR headset could be seen as a precursor to any relationship between Apple and Valve. To create the headset and, crucially, fill the app store, it worked with Oculus. More recently, Samsung appears to have lost interest in the Galaxy VR headset, as the Galaxy S10 phone fits inside the accessory if you use a special adapter, the Galaxy Note 10 does not. Whether the Galaxy S11 will be backwards compatible, or a new headset is released, remains to be seen.
The trend for mobile VR, where a smartphone provides the screen inside a headset accessory, has likely had its day. Google has recently treated its Daydream VR headset, which provided one of the most enjoyable and accessible mobile VR experiences, in the same way as Samsung. Apple’s lengthy development process could mean it will bring something very new to the table.