Apple CEO Tim Cook thinks augmented reality is going to be something big, a fairly simple claim to make thanks to the company’s recent inclusion of its AR tech into every Apple device capable of updating to iOS 11. But when we talk about AR, the natural terminus isn’t the smartphone’s screen, but rather a perfectly immersive pair of AR glasses that have yet to come. Speaking to The Independent, Cook says the technology to create an AR headset in a “quality way” just isn’t possible yet, but when it is, Apple will be the best.

“The products themselves have to have a lot of processing power, and a fair amount of different sensor technology in order to do this locational stuff,” Cook tells The Independent. “So having it on iPhone changes the game for developers, because instantly they had hundreds of millions of potential customers. If it were on a different device then you would never have a commercial opportunity, and without the commercial opportunity you’d never have 15 million people that say, ‘I want to design my passion with AR’.”

image courtesy Apple

As a ready-made launchpad for AR interactions with a built-in audience, the iPhone and iPad are great, but what about AR headsets? Cook is doubtful in the short-term, saying the technology itself “doesn’t exist to do that in a quality way.”

Despite some telling patents made by the company, Cook says consumers shouldn’t really expect an Apple AR headset in the short-term in spite of the growing number of AR headsets already coming to market.

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“The display technology required, as well as putting enough stuff around your face – there’s huge challenges with that. The field of view, the quality of the display itself, it’s not there yet,” he says. “We don’t give a rat’s about being first, we want to be the best, and give people a great experience. But now anything you would see on the market any time soon would not be something any of us would be satisfied with. Nor do I think the vast majority of people would be satisfied.”

“Most technology challenges can be solved, but it’s a matter of how long,” he says.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • dk

    and they r neither :P

  • Foreign Devil

    When you have Apple money you can just let others innovate and then buy them up after they’ve created something novel.

    • NooYawker

      Seems like all the big companies are doing that now. Most startups are created I hopes to be bought by google or Facebook for billions.

  • johngrimoldy

    Hmmmm… We’ll see. Apple doesn’t always dominate in everything think they try. Pippin and Newton come to mind. Apple TV hasn’t exactly been the giant killer that iPhones are. Apple might have their work cut out for them. It will all boil down to content and pricing. Apple has never been a strong gaming platform.

    • You are right. Apple desktop is not a strong gaming platform, AMD for the last 7 or so years now and bespoke drivers that Apple themselves manage has contributed to that. They do lead the mobile gaming market though so if they compete with Oculus’s standalone vision then Apple will dominate it. Oculus only hope to sustain themselves is to have Windows as the OS then its multiple fronts taking on Apple.

      • Get Schwifty!

        That’s poised to change possibly, as they are due to VR effectively being pushed to incorporate relatively higher end GPU’s into their laptops and desktops along with Nvidia’s new thinner form factor focus.

      • Atheist Prophet

        I have become convinced in the last 6 months that Apple should buy Nintendo.

        Think about it. Both are premium brands that actually complement each other very well. Nintendo was always better at software than at hardware. And Nintendo is going mobile with their Switch. If Apple bought Nintendo, they could make an iOS based Switch II. iOS would become the best mobile gaming platform easily, because Google has nothing in games and Sony and MS aren’t big in mobile.

        Being the best game platform for mobile could easily rub off on the desktop platform as well. And it would definitely be a boon to any AR/VR aspirations. And Apple TV would also benefit from it. That coveted place in the living room could get in reach.

        Nintendo’s problem is that it has lost third-party support. With the huge success of the Switch they have got some of them back on board but they are still never near where they once were. Having Apple behind them would draw a lot of third parties back in.

        Unfortunately, Nintendo is stubborn and Apple seems to lack vision when it comes to the gaming market so it will probably not happen. But I do not believe you can be successful in AR/VR without gaming.

  • MosBen

    First, there is a first mover advantage. Unless Oculus, and to a lesser extent Valve/HTC, mess things up, they’re the defacto brand of VR by simply being the most visible early company that brought commercial VR to market. That ship has sailed, so whatever Apple’s thoughts on the matter, they can’t be first.

    As for being best, I’m not convinced. iPhones are fine devices, but they’re not clearly the best devices on the market, at least not beyond a couple months of launch. Apple hasn’t been putting out clearly superior products for years now. Of course this doesn’t mean that they’re bad, just that whenever Apple gets around to releasing VR/AR hardware there’s no reason to think that they will manage to come up with something that’s dramatically better than the other companies who have been working in that part of the industry for several years. Facebook, Google, Valve/HTC, and smaller companies like Magic Leap have all been putting tons of money and hours into developing VR/AR products designed by top talent in the industry. It’s Apple that’s playing catch up now, and I’m not holding my breath for an announcement that they’ve somehow leapfrogged everyone.

    • StevenAn

      First mover advantage doesn’t matter that much. Just look at Apple’s past success.

      The iPhone may not be technically “the best”, but technical specs never really matter. There’s a baseline level of technical competence you need to meet, and the rest is marketing. And I would actually argue that in terms of overall market characteristics, the iPhone market IS the best. Ie. there are more people that have higher-spec iPhones than people that have higher-spec Androids. Just look at the ARKit vs. ARCore markets.

      Of course when the iPhone FIRST came out, it was clearly the best among smartphones out there (remember the RAZR, etc) in terms of tech AND sexiness.

      • Get Schwifty!

        Specs only tell part of the story and that’s the point. It is a clear fact that ergonomics. stability, security etc. are also part of the Apple package. Just having better “specs” does not a superior product overall make. Apple is not a “hardware” company the way Samsung is for instance, where they just use their industrial capacity to throw 15 versions at the wall to see what sticks. Instead, they plot a specific path focused on an ergonomic philosophy and generally stick to it because… it usually works.

        Are Cook’s statements marketing? Of course, but to his point… I work in a group with mixed Apple and Android phones… the people with the most phone issues, i.e.. sound quality, reception, stability are always the vaunted Android phones…. with their superior specs no less.

    • Lucidfeuer

      The only businesses in which Apple are the “best” are the only businesses they were first in mp3 player (iPod), multimedia tablets (iPads) and smartphones (iPhone).

      Everything else, that they jumped on the bandwagon of or weren’t the first, they’re not the “best” nor best selling (computers, laptops, “smart”watches, TVs, TV boxes, mouses/keyboard, consoles, earphones…).

      So this statement by Tim Cook is beyond stupid, yet it’s your everyday non-sensical PR move that’ll convince those who don’t even actually understand what they read.

      • Jon

        Err… I’m pretty sure they were’nt the first to market with an mp3 player, tablet computer, or smartphone. Hell, I had a 1 megapixel digital camera with an mp3 player built in before an ipod was a thing. Though when they did release each of these things, they (Steve) did it pretty bloomin successfully. (*I’m an android user with a Mac that a joy to use for work and a PC that does VR… :-)

        • Lucidfeuer

          Yes there were, but confusion is in the semantics. The terms “smartphones” predates iPhone yet absolutely nothing like a smartphone as we use it today, or we could use another term like pocket operator, existed before. Same for “tablets” or mp3 player. It’s like comparing transistor radios and x-ray medical radios.

          • AmiRami

            The first iPhone wasn’t even a smartphone It was an iPod phone. There is no doubt that iPhone was not the first smartphone. I was rocking a Palm Treo for YEARS before iPhone came out. And I think you are forgetting the then market leader, Blackberry.

          • Lucidfeuer

            Not going to waste time if you’re going to pretend that everyone knows that the term “smartphone” existed for crap devices like Blackberrys or Palm pads which were failures, and that the iPhone started something completely new that didn’t exist before, which sure could have used another term but ended-up being what we now call smartphones.

            It’s not merely an iPod phone given that the iPod function is not even 1% of iPhone’s usage. iPhone, then Palm Pre, then Android phones, then Lumia etc…are what everybody calls smartphones for a lack of better, so BBM or Pads are what we call pre-smartphones but there are certainly not the same thing.

          • AmiRami

            I think you may be forgetting what the first iPhone was. It ran on Edge when most smartphones ran on 3G. There was no app store back then. Whatever FEW apps you got on the phone was all you got. It only had SMS and no MMS. FFS, the thing didn’t even have a clipboard.

            The first iPhone was a feature phone, not a smartphone. And I don’t see anyone here denying that the iPhone forever changed the market.

        • AS

          apple employed the creator of the first digital media player (Kane Kramer, who prototyped one in 1979) so they could use him in the litigation of their competition

      • YCC

        Apple is currently number 1 watch maker in the world by revenue. This is all watches, not just smart watches. I would say they are doing pretty well on this front. Their AirPods also have incredibly high NPS scores, and definitely not what I would consider a failure.

        • Lucidfeuer

          yeah…please don’t talk to me.

  • Ted Joseph

    I agree with MosBen below. Being first definitely has its benefits. You acquire a consumer base, you continue to get feedback on your product and improve it, you continue to increase the software that is built specifically for your product etc. I think Apple is going down a slippery slope if they feel they can rely on their current product line sales while others are innovating.

    • johngrimoldy

      I’m not so sure about the distinct advantage of being first. To wit: Myspace, Blockbuster, Kodak. Beyond that, we agree, there has been little innovation from Apple in a decade.

  • When Apple create a headset it will be very popular. The market by that point will already understand the benefits. They have one of the best battery technology, the display technology, the A10X processor, the design skill and most of all they have the App Store and its millions of developers. They literally can not fail. Or should not.

    Oculus have taken a bold step with the Santa Cruz but they do not have millions of developers ready and waiting to cash in….yet. Oculus Store is in its infancy and what OS will the standalone HMD run? Android?

    Of course Apple’s arch enemy Microsoft has started down the path already with their MR headsets and OS level support so it will be interesting to see if they can get to the point of depreciating the monitor and get their Windows users to start using a HMD instead.

    When Apple will join in is anybodies guess. I suppose ARKit is a start to get their developers interested, build the SDK up and other toolsets (e.g. Xcode) but no mention of macOS native support as yet. And I Wish Apple would allow NVidia upgrades but they don’t, much to my annoyance.

    • neostarsx1 .

      Better battery tech? Lmao my iphone 6 2month after use turned off at random %. And i have to recharge.

      • Anything produced on mass will have faulty units. Sadly you got one. Same with everything really. Like trying to buy a top of range TV, you may get a perfect panel if you are lucky as they are not all equal. Same with iPhones, they can develop faults down the road.

        • Justos

          Apple doesn’t have special batteries. They just have a much better control on the hardware/software to make those kinds of optimizations. Same with their technically inferior processing power blowing the crap out of Snapdragon SoCs. Optimization !

  • Jean-Sebastien Perron

    Apple will be neither first nor best but it will be the most expensive.
    Steeve Job death was the end of apple innovations.

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    • Pre-Jobs II, CEO Gilbert Emilio’s licensing of Apple’s code to partner companies produced the most — and most rapid — innovations in Apple’s history. My Motorola StarMax was a superior computer in every way to Apple machines of that time. When Jobs returned as CEO, that explosive period of innovation came to an end and we started getting ever-more refined, expensive, and exclusive Apple products. Also products and services less user-friendly, in terms of being modifiable, because Apple essentially ended free-flowing communications between its customers and its tech teams. I’m pretty much at the end of my Apple life. I still use an older MacBook Pro, but my smartphone is Android all the way. Apple will really have to sell me to use its version of “VR,” whatever that may turn out to be, especially if it requires an Apple equipment platform. I’m sure that matters not a whit to Apple execs.

    • Edward Morgan

      Pfft, Jobs. Steve WOZNIAK was the Steve with the brains. He’s still alive, and still TECHNICALLY employed by Apple, but hasn’t done a day of work there since 1981.

      Jobs was a consummate salesman, but he was hardly a genius inventor.

      He was also, perhaps not coincidentally, really good at taking credit for other people’s work.

  • Facts

    -Never heard of magic leap

  • Master E

    User wise Apple is first… when they updated their IOS to be AR compatible they instantly became the largest user base of AR devices overnight.

    Perhaps that’s how they’ll do it… everyone will have bought an i device not even knowing that they’ve bought into AR/VR.

  • WyrdestGeek

    I’ll believe it when I see it, Apple CEO guy.

    Steve Jobs was a visionary. And, IMHO, Apple is fumbling blind without him.

    Of course I could be wrong. And if Apple eventually *does* come out with some revolutionary VR or AR tech, I will be happy about having been wrong.

    But until then, I remain skeptical.

    • Justos

      Lets not pretend that everything Steve did was amazing, or even that he didnt have a 5 year plan before he died. Would you say those 5 years after his death were a flop?

      • WyrdestGeek

        I agree that not everything he did was great. I forgot that “visionary” doesn’t mean quite the same thing to me as it does the general public. (For most folks, I guess “visionary” is tremendous high praise. But for me it’s more of a mixed bag– but the point is it means having a plan for the future– whether the plan works out is another matter.)

        As to Steve having laid out a five year plan: in my ignorance, I did not know that. But in any case: we are now passed that five year mark. And I feel like it’s starting to show.

        But again– lest anyone call me a hater, I would be happy to be proven wrong. Were Apple to come out with some ground breaking VR or AR thing, I would be thrilled about it.

  • Mahmoud Hashem

    ‘We don’t want to be first, we want to be the last’

    • Get Schwifty!

      And of course, the most profitable ;)

  • NooYawker

    Being first doesn’t mean much anymore aside from fanboy wars. But I don’t know if being Apple holds as much sway anymore without Jobs. They’ll have to do something special.

  • Arkadius Brand

    This guy is miserable. He waits till others show how to do things.

    • That’s exactly what I thought. I paraphrased his statement, “We’ll wait until we see what works and what doesn’t, and then produce an overpriced version of that.”

  • trekkie

    Clearly this guy is NO Steve Jobs.

  • kontis

    A bunch of arm chair specialists telling Apple what to do. Cute.

    He is 100% correct about technology not being ready. Jobs could make iPhone because all the necessary core ingredients were available.

    Sleek AR SmartGlasses are currently technologically impossible and pouring billions will not magically make it. That’s not how science works. You can brute force some engineering (like Apollo), but scientific breakthroughs are unpredictable.

  • Armando Tavares

    La Fontaine’s: The fable of The Fox and the Grapes

    «The fox who longed for grapes, beholds with pain
    The tempting clusters were too high to gain;
    Grieved in his heart he forced a careless smile,
    And cried, ‘They’re sharp and hardly worth my while.»

  • Oh no, here we go again! ….

    Headsets were and remain (and may always be) the bete noir of VR fantasies. No one likes to wear a headset. Some gamers may endure the experience of being cut off from the real world because (a) they’re not going anywhere, (b) they don’t want to be disturbed by another human being, except as an avatar, and (c) it’s the only way for them to get total immersion.

    But most persons — maybe 95% — continue to be put off by headsets of the Oculus variety (a direct copy, btw, of Mark Bolan’s 1988 Fakespace headset developed for NASA, only with better motion sensor tech) and even the Google Glass variety. Few are willing to have their vision occluded by machinery or the images seen therein, not even considering the physical inconvenience and forced isolation in a virtual world that conforms to someone else’s design characteristics. Apple, stick with mobile 2-1/2D!

    I know, it’s difficult for the press to cover a field in which the most meaningful experiences being written about haven’t comparable visuals that can fill a hole in a story. This drives editors to fall back on headsets and gloves, etc., as graphic monikers — but to witness giant industrial firms voluntarily leaping into the black hole of headsettery and similar foolishness is just remarkable. And for the press to laud it for “doing over and over again that which doesn’t work” is the definition of madness.

    PS I’ve been working in virtual worlds since the late 80s. In 1990, ( founded the industry-building USENET newsgroup, sci.virtual-worlds. Sometimes I feel like a Cassandra, predicting a future that could be but never is the realization of all our dreams, except for all those who continue to go down these unproductive rabbit holes. Wake up!

  • mpd

    If Apple’s current techno-eco-system is any measure, they are a long way from being first in VR, if in anything, really.