Apple CEO Tim Cook has stated that in his view, augmented reality and not virtual reality holds the ticket for commercial success in immersive technologies in the future.

Apple CEO Tim Cook [Image courtesy Mashable]
Apple CEO Tim Cook [Image courtesy Mashable]
On the subject of virtual and augmented reality Apple is still largely ‘mum’ on it’s intended direction, even in the wake of its latest hardware launch, the iPhone 7. As its largest competitors trail-blaze a particular path, Apple is content to be Apple and survey the chaos and decide to do things when it’s good and ready. This is what Apple has always done for the most part, and they’ve done very nicely as a result.

Up until recently we’ve only had circumstantial evidence (significant amounts mind you) that Apple is working towards an immersive technology product. Numerous acquisitions and hires point to a company who recognises mobile technology, such as its iPhone, is now reaching or indeed past its zenith in commercial potential, and (much like former mobile giant HTC has) needs to find another route to remaining relevant in the space in the future.

Now, in an interview with Good Morning America (as reported by Vanity Fair), Tim Cook has stated that, in his (and therefore Apple’s) opinion, virtual reality as he sees it is far less attractive to consumers than its close relative augmented reality. “Virtual reality sort of encloses and immerses the person into an experience that can be really cool but probably has a lower commercial interest over time,” said Cook.

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Augmented reality on the other hand “gives the capability for both of us to sit and be very present, talking to each other, but also have other things—visually—for both of us to see,” says Cook, “Maybe it’s something we’re talking about, maybe it’s someone else here who’s not here present but who can be made to appear to be present.”

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Cook has already gone on record with hints that Apple are working towards an immersive future, although recent comments were more supportive of virtual reality as a technology. Recode reported that Cook said on VR’s “geeky niche” image “In terms of virtual reality, no, I don’t think it’s a niche,” Cook replied. “I think it can be … it’s really cool and has some interesting applications.”

Apple meanwhile are still making significant, strategic hires which seemingly indicative of their growing commitment to an immersive future. Macrumors reported yesterday that the company have recruited two new team member, Zeyu Li from Magic Leap and Yury Petrov from Oculus. Li, who formerly served as “Principal Computer Vision Engineer” at Magic Leap has joined Apple as “Senior Computer Vision Algorithm Engineer”, which could indicate a focus on anything from inside out mobile tracking to hand gesture input. Petrov meanwhile has joined as a “Research Scientist”, having held a similar title at Oculus.

Given Apple’s biggest hardware launch this year, the iPhone 7, is now out of the way, it seems unlikely we’ll learn more about the technology giant’s plans for AR or VR this year. But, with Google’s Android-integrated Daydream VR platform due to drop very soon, Apple will indeed be playing catch up with their competitors from hereon out. But then, that’s what they do best.

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Based in the UK, Paul has been immersed in interactive entertainment for the best part of 27 years and has followed advances in gaming with a passionate fervour. His obsession with graphical fidelity over the years has had him branded a ‘graphics whore’ (which he views as the highest compliment) more than once and he holds a particular candle for the dream of the ultimate immersive gaming experience. Having followed and been disappointed by the original VR explosion of the 90s, he then founded to follow the new and exciting prospect of the rebirth of VR in products like the Oculus Rift. Paul joined forces with Ben to help build the new Road to VR in preparation for what he sees as VR’s coming of age over the next few years.
  • Me

    I see them as being the first to implement somethig like the google glass correctly. That would be like the first iPhone breakthrough. But I also would like them not to throw away VR, but it might be stuck to the living room. VR for home, AR for mobile, that’s the way to go.

  • AR and VR have strong points each for different markets. For example games / cinema are best viewed in fully immersive environments as you want to escape the real world and be drawn into a new world. Lifestyle, productivity and business apps would benefit most from AR with overlayed enhancements to the real world around us. They will both succeed but AR will as Apple suggest become a part of our normal everyday lives, just like a mobile phone is at the moment. VR is a dive in dive out case. I predict that somewhere down the line the iPhone will transform to an AR controller which can send content to a wearable such as a smart contact lens.

  • wowgivemeabreak

    This probably means they are working on a VR set since Timmy loves to be negative on things they will eventually come out with. He has:

    crapped on OLED when all rumours point to them going to OLED next year
    crapped on big screen phones
    crapped on big 10″+ tablets
    crapped on smaller tablets

    I think both VR and AR will be very popular if companies involved with both don’t drop the ball. Both have a place and can be just as successful.

  • OgreTactics

    Another hint at how clueless they are and very few hope there is for this company. The only thing they retained out of quality, innovation, power, strategy, usability etc…is design, which Samsung, Google, HTC and other competitors seems to still be unable to match the paradigm of, despite their billions of dollars wasted on many untalented impostors (except Matias Duarte).

  • yag

    Not hard to see that AR will be the next big thing and VR just a subpart of it.

  • Nigerian Wizard

    Your first sentence made me not read the rest.

  • Norman Zoidberg

    As someone who has used both VR (HTC Vive) and AR (Hololens) extensively I can admit Tim Cook happens to be right. After using Hololens for a couple months now I can conclusively say it is the future (it’s AMAZING). HOWEVER Apple will no doubt make an inferior product sell it at an inflated price and be hailed as the inventor of and innovator in the AR space. Hopefully Magic Leap can beat them to market and be crowned the true leader and king of AR.

  • Follow @offensivedialog

    They need to come with a cloning device so they can reconstruct Steve Jobs

  • monkeyrun

    VR is great as an amusement.
    It’s not viable as a day to day computing platform.