Tim Cook has suggested once again that Apple is working on an augmented reality headset. As a good CEO, he didn’t state it as fact, but, paired with other things he’s said in the past, the implication is relatively clear.
Robin Roberts asked Cook about virtual reality on Wednesday in an ABC News interview. Cook expanded the conversation so that it would also include A.R.
“There’s virtual reality, and there’s augmented reality,” he said. “Both of these are incredibly interesting. But my own view is that augmented reality is the larger of the two, probably by far.”
A month ago, Cook told the Washington Post something similar. In that interview, he was a little bit less guarded. “I think A.R. is extremely interesting and sort of a core technology,” he said. “So, yes, it’s something we’re doing a lot of things on behind that curtain that we talked about.”
But in the ABC interview Wednesday, Cook explained his own opinions on why A.R. is and will remain superior to VR. A.R., as Cook explains, “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.”
A.R. headsets, since they’re designed to enhance rather than replace reality, do not block out what you can see.
“Maybe it’s something we’re talking about; maybe it’s someone else, here, that is not here present, but could be made to appear to be present with us. And so there are lots of really cool things there.” Cook didn’t say anything too enlightening — which, unless he figures out how to summon Steve Jobs’s ghost, is no surprise.
But his business-minded critique of VR is something we can all understand. The goal for these technologies should not be to increase a user’s immersion in a device: Generally speaking, people are sick of constant immersion. While VR takes immersion to a new level, A.R. opens up the world and frees up the hands and mind. Cook highlighted this difference as the key drawback with VR headsets.
“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,” he said. “Less people will be interested in that.”
No less, he hedged slightly:
“But there are some really cool areas there for education, and gaming, that we have a lot of interest in.”
It appears, then, that Apple is indeed working on an A.R. headset. Given that it’s prophetic Apple, and that Chief Design Officer Jony Ive will be at least partly responsible for whatever the team dreams up, we can’t wait to see what’s in store.