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.
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.
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.”
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.