Apple’s Tim Cook On Augmented Reality: ‘It Will Be Huge’

by Joe Durbin • July 27th, 2016

During an earnings call with investors, Apple Inc.’s CEO Tim Cook hopped on the line to discuss the state of his company. The bulk of the call involved Cook lauding the promising sales of the new iPhone SE, the Apple Watch, and the tech juggernaut’s steady push into the Asian markets. However, during the question and answer period the subject of augmented reality came up and Cook’s responses are highly illuminating.

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The question of AR was first put to Cook via an an analyst on the call who wanted to know his thoughts on the gargantuan success of Niantic’s recent Pokemon GO phenomenon. Cook’s response was to applaud the game’s success, but also to reveal some of Apple’s closely guarded ambitions when it comes to this emerging new technology.

“In terms of AR and the Pokémon phenomenon, it’s incredible what has happened there. I think it’s a testament to what happens with innovative apps and the whole ecosystem and the power of being a developer being able to press a button, so to speak, and offer their product around the world. And just a certain developer has elected not to go worldwide yet because of the pressure on their servers, et cetera, because of the demand. But I’m sure that they will over time.

It also does show, as you point out, that AR can be really great. And we have been and continue to invest a lot in this. We are high on AR for the long run. We think there are great things for customers and a great commercial opportunity. And so we’re investing, and the number one thing is to make sure our products work well with other developers’ products like Pokémon. And so that’s the reason why you see so many iPhones out in the wild right now chasing Pokémons.

Ignoring for a moment that he called them “Pokemons,” Cook’s comments here highlight Apple’s current attitude toward AR: build phones that refuse to get left behind. Apple may not have a proprietary AR device of its own on the market — yet — but Cook makes it clear here that the company’s hardware plans do involve making sure their handsets can run popular AR apps in the long run. His words also show that even high ranking CEO’s are tired of seeing the Gyrados screen of death as they hunt for that elusive Charmeleon.

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A follow up question asked Cook if he thinks, “there’s going to be a computing shift towards AR” in the industry. Cook responded by saying:

I notice there are people that want to call it a new computer platform, and we’ll see. I think there’s a tendency in this industry to call everything new the next computer platform. However, that said, I think AR can be huge. So we’ll see whether it’s the next platform. But regardless, it will be huge.

Apple has made several recent acquisitions that indicate its interest in AR and all signs currently point to an eventual product release that more fully embraces mixed reality technology. This is also not the first time Cook has spoken well of immersive hardware. He clearly believes AR can be “huge” and Apple is — if nothing else — a company that is able to take that next big thing and polish it into a successful new product.

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  • Hogo

    i hope apple really invests in this. Very irritating not to be able to use any of my Macs when building a new vr rig for vive.

    • Ian Hamilton

      I’m really hopeful the next Mac laptop lineup can run a full VR experience.

      • ksfkay

        It’d be great to access MacOS in the VR world.

    • I know right! Oculus made me buy my first PC ever. I’d like to think it’s temporary.

      • Ian Hamilton

        I built my first PC for DK2 after exhausting all Mac options. 🙂

    • Svartgeit

      You all know that VR and AR are not the same thing right? He was specifically talking about AR here not VR.

      • Hogo

        obviously. But, they are related, and inevitably will converge

        • Svartgeit

          No really, by definition they are not going to converge. AR is adding or augmenting information, games or objects onto reality. You would have to have something like google glass, magic leap or hololens and it would process what you actually see and add things on top of that. VR is replacing your senses and transporting you to another reality. The Vive completely covers your eyes and ears if you have headphones. You cannot merge them.

          I’m being picky but it’s important to understand the difference. They are both related but very different in terms of how we use the technology.

          • Hogo

            I’m speaking specifically about the devices used. That is what this post is about, coming from a device manufacturer. I understand the fundamental technologies are different. We can turn the condescension down just a little bit don’t you think?

          • Svartgeit

            So you mean eventually the same device will be used for VR and AR? I can see that. I mean, cell phones have cameras and can potentially be used for AR as well as a cardboard VR device or in a HMD. I’m just clarifying the difference because a lot of people interchange AR and VR. Nothing I said was condescending, just clarifying what sounds like a confusion about the differences and similarities.

          • ksfkay

            With that being said our GPS devices are virtual maps augmented with sound making us lightyears ahead of our time.

  • Heh…. VR is awesome, but when you have the big 3 leaders in the industry, Apple, Microsoft, and Google, still developing and acquiring for AR, that should tell you something is on the horizon that will definitely stand shoulder to shoulder with VR, if not eclipse it at times.