Apple is reportedly partnering up with Valve, the company behind Steam, to develop its first augmented reality (AR) headset.

Valve already offers a virtual reality headset of its own for gaming. But its work with Apple is said to be focused on AR, which Cupertino believes will play an increasingly important role in the future.

Apple stepped up its AR efforts with the introduction of ARKit in 2017. The framework makes it easier than ever for developers to build AR apps for iPhone and iPad. But it won’t stop there.

Apple knows AR can’t take off in a big way if it’s stuck inside iOS devices. So it is rumored to be working on a brand-new wearable that will make AR more accessible.

Sources say it has now enlisted Valve’s help.

Apple teams up with Valve

“Apple reportedly has partnered with US game developer Valve to develop AR head-mounted display devices, which may be released in the second half of 2020 at the earliest,” reports Digitimes.

Valve launched a VR headset of its own, Valve Index, back in April. But its work with Apple is specifically on augmented reality, which overlays virtual content onto the real world.

Digitimes reported in July that Apple had temporarily shelved its AR headset plans, with the team behind it being disbanded. It now claims this was actually the start of a big transition.

It was in July that Apple’s AR project reportedly shifted from in-house development to a collaboration with Valve.

Apple’s focus on AR

No one believed at the time that Apple had scrapped its AR headset plans. Other sources, including reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, maintained that they were alive and well.

More importantly, evidence of the project has continued to pop up in iOS 13 and Xcode 11 as recently as September, all but confirming Apple’s work is still ongoing today.

Kuo also reported in October that Apple was teaming up with third parties to bring the headset to market. He predicted it could enter mass-production late this year for a 2020 launch.

It is claimed Quanta Computer and Pegatron, existing Apple partners, will manufacture and assemble the device.

iPhone still required

Apple’s AR headset is expected to rely on iPhone for things like computing, network connectivity, and location sensors. It will initially be a smartphone accessory, rather than a standalone product.

This will allow the device to be more affordable. It will also help ensure it is compact and lightweight, which is a must for a head-mounted wearable.