A leaked internal build of the iOS 13 operating system suggests that Apple is preparing to radically enhance the motion and position tracking abilities of upcoming devices, using a new coprocessor alternately codenamed “Rose” and “R1.” According to a new MacRumors report this morning, the chip appears set to replace Apple’s M-series motion processors with a broader set of sensors and wireless capabilities, enabling devices to know both where they are in a physical space and how they’re moving through it.
Currently, Apple pairs its M12 motion coprocessor with A12 and A12X Bionic chips, enabling devices such as the iPhone and iPad to gather motion data, wake up the screen on movement, and trigger Siri even when the main chip is powered off. M12’s functionality is primarily focused on data from the device’s compass, gyroscope, accelerometer, barometer, and microphones.
By comparison, Rose will add support for inertial measurement, Bluetooth 5.1-based relative object location measurement features such as angle of arrival and angle of departure, ultra-wideband position mapping, and camera sensor data. Collectively, these features will enable the device to know when it’s falling or being rapidly moved in a given direction, as well as helping it to determine both its own location and the locations of accessories or other objects in a room.
While the report suggests that the initial applications will be locating Apple’s upcoming wireless item-tracking Tags and processing people occlusion features in ARKit, it’s not hard to imagine Rose being used for broader AR purposes: helping to provide positional data for AR glasses, dramatically improving 3D room mapping for AR apps, and speeding up AR superimposition of digital assets atop real people, objects, or backdrops. If Rose is like the M-series chips, it won’t consume much power while doing these things, either.
The report also provides a little color for claims that Apple could bring the little-known “ultra-wideband” (UWB) wireless radio technology to some of its 2019 products. Not to be confused with Verizon’s use of the same term in its millimeter wave 5G marketing, UWB can provide high-accuracy location tracking for objects, enabling items to be pinpointed within 10-30 centimeters of their actual locations, compared with 1-3 meters for Bluetooth versions prior to 5.1. Because UWB has historically been expensive and required multiple anchors for triangulation, it’s unclear whether Apple will in fact use the technology for consumer location-tracking purposes or has more business-focused plans, such as enhancing the location of items in retail shops.
Rose is expected to ship in 2019 iPhones at a minimum, and could come to other Apple devices such as iPads and Apple Watches. It’s currently unclear whether it will arrive under the “R1” name or follow Apple convention in tracking with correspondingly new A-series (“R13”) or S-series (“R5”) processors, though if it’s planned for cross-platform use, it may have its own numbering scheme.