Apple CEO Tim Cook has once again affirmed his belief in the significance of augmented reality technology. Interviewed during a recent trip to Europe, he spoke broadly about how AR could benefit everyone’s lives in the future, highlighting the way it allows users to remain ‘present’ in the real world. Underscored by years of relevant hiring and R&D, Cook’s words appear to further set the stage for the company’s rumored foray into the AR space.

Despite many of the company’s biggest rivals and allies showing active development in the AR/VR space, Apple has yet to make a firm commitment toward or away from these immersive technologies, but there’s no doubt that the company has major research and development going on behind the scenes. The Cupertino HQ has been acquiring talent in this field for several years, filing patents at least as far back as 2007 for HMDs, and new patents for AR. Having hired top VR/AR researcher Doug Bowman a year ago, many suspect it’s only a matter of time before Apple shows their AR/VR hand.

Apple CEO Tim Cook | Photo courtesy Apple
Apple CEO Tim Cook | Photo courtesy Apple

In an interview by The Independent during a recent European tour, CEO Tim Cook reaffirmed his enthusiasm for AR, positioning it as an antithesis of VR in the way that it allows the user to remain ‘present in the world’, rather than closing the world out.

“I’m excited about augmented reality because unlike virtual reality which closes the world out, AR allows individuals to be present in the world but hopefully allows an improvement on what’s happening presently,” Cook said. “Most people don’t want to lock themselves out from the world for a long period of time and today you can’t do that because you get sick from it. With AR you can, not be engrossed in something, but have it be a part of your world, of your conversation. That has resonance.”

While we don’t agree with Cook’s assessment of AR and VR being necessarily opposite technologies (or that VR makes people sick in competently designed experiences), we can understand his view that AR’s focus on what’s already around us means the tech has the potential to integrate well with user’s daily lives (which is surely the realm where Apple likes its products to play).

Cook went on to describe AR’s potential to be as significant as the smartphone, a technology that could improve everyone’s lives.

“I regard [AR] as a big idea like the smartphone. The smartphone is for everyone, we don’t have to think the iPhone is about a certain demographic, or country or vertical market: it’s for everyone. I think AR is that big, it’s huge,” Cook told The Independent. “I get excited because of the things that could be done that could improve a lot of lives. And be entertaining. I view AR like I view the silicon here in my iPhone, it’s not a product per se, it’s a core technology. But there are things to discover before that technology is good enough for the mainstream. I do think there can be a lot of things that really help people out in daily life, real-life things, that’s why I get so excited about it.”

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This isn’t the first time that Apple has appeared to show more interest in augmented reality than virtual reality, although given the challenges still facing AR, it could be argued that it would be easier for Apple to launch a VR-ready product first, perhaps a feature we’ll see promoted with the next generation of iPhone, which is expected to use an OLED panel.

Check out Cook’s full interview in The Independent for more about his European visit.

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  • NooYawker

    Less talk, more products.

  • Daemon Hunt

    “Most people don’t want to lock themselves out from the world for a long
    period of time and today you can’t do that because you get sick from it.”

    A strangely naïve comment. Not sure if by using VR your are ‘locking’ yourself out from the world, indeed, it’s more like you are opening up experiences of other worlds. ‘Long period of time’ is subjective. You can get sick from anything if you do it too much lol.

    It’s a typical baby boomer comment if you ask me. I’m not sure if he is really up with the play. It’s also typical of Apple to use negative whitewashing to justify what they aren’t doing.

  • Psychometrics

    As a decades long Mac user, I’ve had it with Apple. Timmy threw those of us using the Pro line under the bus after shooting us in the face some time ago. You can bet his focus is on AR because not a single Mac has the hardware capable of running a Vive or an Oculus. That’s why, Timmy, I bought a Win10 machine over the holidays instead of buying a Mac. I still hate the Windows interface, but it’s stable, malware protection is not nearly the system hog it once was, and it “just works” with regards to VR (I have the Vive). This is not Steve Jobs’ Apple anymore. It’s a boutique phone and watch company.

    • Eloise McInerney

      Must say I’ve been feeling rather the same about Apple. My dad was a Mac diehard, so I grew up with them in the 1980s and 1990s and was using them when Windows PCs still ruled. But I feel Apple have lost their way and while I do love the design, design seems to be their only interest. I still hate the Windows interface but now OSX updates always seem to come out bug-ridden (the El Capitan Finder bug drove me crazy for ages). It was hard to break the Apple brainwashing, but when I discovered VR I ditched the iPhone so that I could use the Samsung Gear (and haven’t regretted it). My next computer purchase will be my first ever Windows 10 machine so I can get hold of Rift or Vive. Never thought I’d say it, but for the foreseeable, I’m done with Apple!