Tim Cook: Why augmented reality like Google Glass, not Oculus, is the future.
In the past, Apple C.E.O. Tim Cook has been reticent when it comes to his company’s plans to develop virtual and augmented reality technology. It is “really cool and has some interesting applications,” he said in January during a company earnings report, but didn’t reveal much more. The world’s most valuable company, with a market capitalization of $616 billion, is said to have a team of employees working on building VR and AR products that could eventually rival the Microsoft HoloLens or Facebook’s Oculus. But while AR-based apps are available to download for the iPhone and iPad, Apple hasn’t yet produced any AR – or VR -specific hardware.
Now, Tim Cook is finally giving some clues as to which modified-reality technology Apple has in mind. In an interview with Good Morning America that aired Wednesday morning, the Apple C.E.O. reveals why augmented reality—which projects digital images over real-world video—will be “the larger of the two, probably by far.”
Augmented reality, Tim Cook argues, offers the possibility to deepen and expand real-world social interaction. It “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. Maybe it’s something we’re talking about, maybe it’s someone else here who’s not here present but who can be made to appear to be present.” V.R., on the other hand—a sensory, immersive experience that currently requires the use of large, wraparound headsets—is inherently antisocial. “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. While that presents plenty of opportunities in the education and gaming markets, Tim Cook suggested, its appeal will ultimately be limited.
So far, neither technology has found widespread adoption. Google Glass, which was unveiled in 2012, was generally considered a flop, partly because the technology was still too new, and partly because the idea of glasses with a built-in camera was, at the time, considered “creepy.” But attitudes toward the social-media panopticon have changed considerably in the intervening years. Snapchat appears to be moving forward with potential plans for smart glasses of its own. And augmented reality apps like the smash-hit Pokémon Go, which uses a smartphone’s G.P.S. and camera to allow users to play the game while walking around in the physical world, have revealed just how wide the market is for experiences that merge the real and digital worlds. If Apple can find a way to bring a similar level of virality to its new products, it could become the first big tech company to actually do augmented reality well.