The next major updates to Apple’s mobile and desktop operating systems are expected to bring developer support for stereo augmented reality (AR) headsets, as well as enhanced support for gaming controllers that feature touch pads (like Sony’s DualShock controller).

“For game developers, the OS will support controllers with touch pads and stereo AR headsets,” according to 9to5Mac‘s Guilherme Rambo today.

Overdue controller support

Support for gaming controllers with touch pads is overdue but better late than never, I guess. Also, please bring this to tvOS where enhanced controller support is desperately needed.

If Apple were serious about gaming, it would enable system-wide support for Sony’s Xbox controller and Sony’s DualShock on macOS. On the iOS and tvOS side, the company could benefit even more from rich controller support. Currently, support in iOS and tvOS is severely limited to a few MFi options, like the Nimbus.

The report did not provide any specifics in terms of the AR headset claim. Some folks have taken that as a sign that we might be seeing an AR headset from Apple this year after all.

AR headsets

In reality, this is almost certainly something aimed at third-party hardware developers. According to reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, a first-party AR headset could be entering mass production in the Christmas quarter ahead of launch in the second quarter of 2020.

Despite CNET calling for a standalone device, Kuo is expecting a head-mounted device acting as a lightweight display, meaning it would require an iPhone for computations, positioning, networking, location services and so forth. Bloomberg said in November 2017 the gizmo would be powered by Apple-designed chips and feature a custom operating system.

Apple currently supports HTC’s Vive headset for virtual reality content creation through SteamVR, Unity or any other development environment on your Mac.

The Cupertino technology giant continues to advance the ARKit framework—everything it’s accomplished so far in terms of augmented reality feels like training wheels for the real thing—a sophisticated headset that will take the experience to the next level.

Supporting other third-party headsets may or may not indicate that a first-party product is coming this year. More likely, Apple simply wants to give programmers writing AR and VR apps more options in terms of supported headsets for development work.

HTC Vive photograph top of post via Max Weisel