Apple's Cook repeats benefits of AR in interview, says AR glasses tech not mature
Apple CEO Tim Cook continued his European tour on Tuesday with an interview discussing the benefits of augmented reality and ARKit, which with iOS 11 and a slate of new iPhones has become a major focus for the Cupertino tech giant.
In a rambling interview conducted by The Independent, Cook mostly echoed statements and commentary dating back to this year's Worldwide Developers Conference, when Apple introduced ARKit to the world.
The Apple chief has since sat down with multiple publications to discuss the tenets of AR, with a keen eye on what Apple brings to the table in terms of iOS and its massive installed user base. As Cook has said, and reiterated in today's interview, iPhone became the world's largest AR platform overnight when iOS 11 launched last month.
Just as important is ARKit, a customized toolkit of APIs with tight hardware integration that allows developers to roll out quality AR apps with relative ease.
Cook views AR as an important, but still gestating, technology that promises to touch everyone and everything. As he has done in the past, the executive likened AR to existing successful Apple technologies like multitouch on iPhone and the App Store.
"Think back to 2008, when the App Store went live. There was the initial round of apps and people looked at them and said, 'this is not anything, mobile apps are not going to take off,'" Cook said. "And then step by step things start to move. And it is sort of a curve, it was just exponential — and now you couldn't imagine your life without apps. Your health is on one app, your financials, your shopping, your news, your entertainment — it's everything. AR is like that. It will be that dramatic."
Aside from oft-repeated platitudes regarding AR's potential, Cook offered a glimpse at what Apple might be investigating in terms of expanding the technology beyond the iOS ecosystem. Of note, Cook was asked about the possibility of Apple branded AR glasses or goggles, perhaps a device similar in form to Microsoft's HoloLens mixed reality headset.
"There are rumors and stuff about companies working on those — we obviously don't talk about what we're working on, but today I can tell you the technology itself doesn't exist to do that in a quality way," Cook said. "The display technology required, as well as putting enough stuff around your face — there's huge challenges with that."
He went on to say technical challenges, like optics that provide an adequate field of view and "the display itself," stand in the way of building a consumer product. Cook repeated Apple's mantra of being the best, not the first, at delivering new technologies to its customers.
"We don't give a rat's about being first, we want to be the best, and give people a great experience. But now anything you would se[e] on the market any time soon would not be something any of us would be satisfied with," Cook said. "Nor do I think the vast majority of people would be satisfied."
Apple has long been rumored to bring a pair of glasses to market, though rumors have shifted the device from a VR delivery system to AR since the company thrust itself into the augmented reality market. Patents seem to back up those claims, but it should be noted that Apple actively investigates many bleeding edge technologies, most of which never see the light of day.
Most recently, reports in August claimed the company is experimenting with "several different types" of AR glasses, each of which varies in style and functionality. If true, Apple is developing multiple systems concurrently, not dissimilar to the original iPhone.