Apple CEO Tim Cook says he regards AR ‘as a big idea like the smartphone’


Pokémon Go has elements of AR in its gameplay

Tim Cook really wants people to know that he’s deeply interested in AR. The Apple CEO hypes augmented reality every chance he gets, and he’s doing it in the same way he teased the wrist as an interesting space before the Apple Watch and the living room as stuck in the 70s before tvOS.

During his week-long trip across Europe, Cook went as far as saying he regards AR “as a big idea like the smartphone” in an interview with The Independent.

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As he often does, Cook made the distinction that augmented reality blends in with a person’s environment whereas virtual reality transports a person from that environment. Cook believes AR has resonance in a way that VR doesn’t because it blocks other people 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. 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.

Clearly Apple has something planned around augmented reality based solely on Cook’s habit of hyping AR and making the case against VR. In the interview, Cook compares the idea of AR to the scope of the smartphone.

While you could read this to mean Apple has plans to enter a new product category based on AR, my read on this is Cook is imagining a way that the iPhone can be a platform for AR in more ways than it already is.

Here’s how Cook framed AR as an all-inclusive technology like the smartphone:

I regard it 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. 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.

Aside from Cook’s new habit of promoting AR, there have been reports that Apple is planning to integrate augmented reality features into the iPhone’s camera in the future.

Separately, there have actually been reports that Apple is developing a wearable glasses product that involves AR. It has also been said that Apple plans to use AR technology with its on again off again car project.

Apple has also made technology acquisitions and hires around augmented reality including Metaio, a firm that developed AR software.

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Avatar for Zac Hall Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news for 9to5Mac and hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour and 9to5Mac Watch Time podcasts.