Tim Cook Reveals Apple Is Working on Products "Way Out in the 2020s"

Augmented reality, anyone?

Unsplash / Alvaro Reyes

Tim Cook has big plans for the future. The Apple CEO revealed in an interview on Wednesday that the company has already started planning for ideas far into the next decade. Details are scarce, but other reports suggest plans for augmented reality and autonomous cars.

“You have to have a forcing function,” Cook told Fast Company. “For us, on the product side, we have to come up with our silicon requirements three, four-plus years in advance. So we’ve got things that we’re working on now that are way out in the 2020s.”

Apple’s work on forthcoming silicon should come as no surprise, but the timescale is slightly larger than expected. The A11 Bionic chip, which shipped in the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X, was at the heart of a three-year development journey. When the iPhone 6 launched in 2014, the company decided to bet that on-device machine learning would become critical to operations three years from then, a decision that proved prescient with the growth of offline A.I. that provides answers without the internet.

Cook didn’t reveal what products the company is working on, but a number of reports have suggested big ambitions in a number of areas. Perhaps the most important — one that Cook himself said makes him want to “scream” — is augmented reality. A November 2017 report claimed the company was working on a project dubbed “T228,” which could lead to a set of augmented reality glasses and an “rOS” headset for interacting with the world. A series of renders from iDrop News showed how these may look in reality:

The software in action.

iDrop News

Another area that Apple is reportedly exploring is autonomous cars. “Project Titan,” an autonomous car project spotted driving around the area, has gone through number of iterations. The most recent approach seems to be 12 Lidar sensors, six on the front and six on the back, packed into a head unit for other vehicles. Whether Apple eventually chooses to build its own car remains unclear.

However, Apple plans to tread cautiously before unveiling anything. In the Wednesday interview, Cook also explained how the company will gladly push products back if it doesn’t feel like a good product. While silicon and other factors add as slight restrictions, Apple also has a degree of freedom to reshape the product very late in development.

“[A product] is like a train–the train leaves the station, and if you have a great idea after that, it’s going on the next train,” Cook said. “You’re not going to call this one back to the station.”

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