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Internal Apple Code Suggests ‘StarBoard’ Spatial Interface

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Code reportedly found by MacRumors in an internal build of iOS 13 suggests Apple is working on iPhone-connected AR glasses and a spatial launcher interface to use them.

Reports that Apple is working on AR glasses first emerged in late 2017. In 2018, Apple acquired Akonia Holographics, a startup working on novel optics for AR based on holography.

StarBoard

iOS is the operating system of iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch. The software which handles its familiar home screen interface is called SpringBoard. Springboard allows the user to position, categorize, uninstall, and launch iOS apps.

According to the report, an internal file in iOS 13 lists a “StarBoard” for launching AR apps. Further in the code the report notes references to “StarBoard mode”. Some of the strings in this code use the prefix AR, such as “ARStarBoardViewController” and “ARStarBoardSceneManager”.

If the report’s claims are true, this would back up the patents suggesting that Apple’s AR glasses will be powered and controlled by the user’s iPhone, rather than a standalone device. StarBoard could be the spatial interface which allows users to browse and launch AR experiences.

Smartphone Shell For Testing?

The report also claims that these internal builds include an app called STARTester which switches the iPhone into AR mode. It claims that this testing app includes two modes, “worn” and “held”.

These modes seem to suggest that STARTester is meant for use with a smartphone holder, similar to many mobile VR products. This could allow Apple’s employees, and trusted developers, to develop and test AR apps before the dedicated hardware is available in large quantities.

Garta

Interestingly, the report claims that the same file which lists StarBoard also lists an AR “device” called ‘Garta’.

It’s not, however, clear exactly what this “device” is. It could be the smartphone holder used for testing, or more tantalizing, it might be the codename for the company’s heavily anticipated AR glasses. As with all leaks based on code fragments there is potentially a wide range of explanations for all this, and we might never see any of it in a finished product.



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