Apple's Tim Cook calls VR 'cool' and not a niche

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware
Asked about the technology during a call on the company's Q1 results, Apple CEO Tim Cook called virtual reality "cool" and something with interesting applications, though he didn't tease any plans Apple might have.




"I don't think it's a niche," Cook told Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. Munster didn't inquire into any specific Apple efforts, as the company normally refuses to comment on future products or even whether it's exploring a concept.

Though it had a false start in the 1990s, owing mostly to poor graphics technology, virtual reality is finally poised to become big in the next few years. Sony, HTC, Samsung, and Facebook's Oculus are among the companies with headsets already out or set to launch later this year, while firms like Google and Microsoft have been exploring VR and the related concept of AR, or augmented reality.

Various developments have hinted at Apple's exploration of the field, such as the recent hire of a VR expert. In May 2015 Apple bought AR firm Metaio, and back in 2013 it picked up PrimeSense, responsible for Microsoft's original Kinect motion sensor for the Xbox 360.

The greatest challenge for Apple may be graphics performance. While many mid- to high-end PCs can handle full-fidelity VR, the only Mac powerful enough to support it is the Mac Pro, which starts at $2,999. AR and more modest forms of VR -- like Samsung's phone-based Gear VR -- may be an easier route.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,279member
    Well that settles it. If Apple now says it's "cool" they have a product on the way for that slot. 
    digital_guylatifbp
  • Reply 2 of 24
    irelandireland Posts: 17,547member
    gatorguy said:
    Well that settles it. If Apple now says it's "cool" they have a product on the way for that slot. 
    Misdirection?
  • Reply 3 of 24
    gatorguy said:
    Well that settles it. If Apple now says it's "cool" they have a product on the way for that slot. 
    No, if they say it's "cool" that means they don't have a product. If they said "we don't announce future products or engage in speculation" THEN they'd have something in the hopper.
    Rayz2016digital_guypalomine
  • Reply 4 of 24
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    gatorguy said:
    Well that settles it. If Apple now says it's "cool" they have a product on the way for that slot. 
    Maybe.  My son and I think VR needs a killer app to trigger ignition.  If Valve had come up with a VR Half Life 3, that might have done it and kicked things off but they haven't so we are wondering what these soon to be released VR headsets are going to be used for.  They require an expensive graphics card to run and an all-round high performance machine and the headsets and and associated peripherals aren't cheap.  Why would people people invest in this when theres pretty much nothing to do with them once acquired?

    Do you recall criticisms of the Samsung S6 because it had such a high resolution screen and therefore would waste power driving it?  Those pixels were necessary when an S6 is used for VR with the Gear headset because each eye only sees half the screen so each half has to have a lot of pixels.  Doesn't seem so silly now considering Samsung are the only Player to have a working and shipped VR product.

    Given the iPhone is Apple's mainstay and they seem to be putting a lot of grunt into the A processors and GPUs, and taking account of the OLED screen rumours, it wouldn't surprise me if Apple pursued the same route Samsung have with the iP7 having a very high pixel count/density OLED screen and serious GPU power in the A10 to drive it for VR purposes when used in a Gear-like accessory.
    InspiredCodegatorguy
  • Reply 5 of 24
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 1,981member
    Meh. 3D television and movies had a resurgence that has also died down again. Neither of these things are wanted by the average person as of now. The niche that wants it and will pay for it are smaller by far than the percentage of consumers that just don't care (or actively reject it).

    Mostly people just want the fantastical fictional versions of these technologies seen in techno-fantasy tv and film: they want free-standing "holographs" (not physically possible, despite people repeatedly being told they are by fiction) and the ability to "jack in" to "cyberspace" with a direct link between the brain and a computer generated environment (currently also technically impossible but maybe not ultimately physically impossible if people figure out how to send and receive sensory data directly to and from the brain while locking out the actual data coming from the body to the brain- we're talking way more than "20 years away" here, since the best integration between electronics and human nervous system is blunt and stupid reaction to simple nerve impulses to drive very simple actions; NOT "thought control" so much as it's peripheral nerve control over devices connected with electrodes to sense nerve impulses).
  • Reply 6 of 24
    My wild guess:  With Thunderbolt 3 they may release an external GPU and support the Rift and Vive on the Mac.  Apple will probably wait a few years for content to be developed for PC and PS4 before creating any of their own hardware.  Then they may release their own self contained VR headset with builtin CPU/GPU/battery and ports of all the popular existing content and integration with Apple TV content providers for big screen virtual movies.
    noivad
  • Reply 7 of 24
    Unless Apple is working with AMD and it's upcomping Polaris GPGPU line up with HBM2.0 memory, for a custom design to be leveraged across not just its Mac Pro but the iMac then they are just setting the seeds for future joint ventures.

    The only two vendors that can do VR is AMD and then Nvidia. No one else comes close.
  • Reply 8 of 24
    ac1234ac1234 Posts: 138member
    I don't think Tim Cook would recognize "cool" if it jumped up and bit him in the ass.
  • Reply 9 of 24
    noivadnoivad Posts: 186member
    I tried out the VR tech in the 90s and it was cool even then, despite the very basic realtime 3D rendering of its day. The biggest roadblocks aside from current tech limits & price, are perceptual. It will take time.

    Most people haven’t read the fiction that @dysamoria talks about (I have and love the ideas, but we are in the minority), and few want direct brain interfaces because how fearful most people are of tech they don’t understand. So, while it might one day be possible, it will take a lot longer to catch on if at all. He is right though, 3D TV simply isn’t compelling enough to buy into considering its limited uses. But hey, it has made regular HDTVs a lot less expensive. So that’s about the best thing that’s happened for consumers with the glut of 3D HDTVs.

    I agree with @cnocbui that VR needs a killer app, or at least one that inspires others to improve on their design. I think aside from gaming which is the most promising, the other use would be immersive 3D modeling where artists could sculpt models in 1:1 scale. But I think VR can be surpassed by 3D AR for some applications. AR also has a lot more useful applications outside of gaming. However they can complement each other (add an electronically controlled visor on the outside that can turn opaque and an AR headset becomes a VR headset).

    While the phones and initial headsets are a good start, the technology will have to become a lot higher res, cheaper and lighter by removing the guts of the phones and simply making the headsets an AV combo w/graphics card, battery, optional camera & essential parts (actually not much less tech, but simply rearranged for balance and aesthetics. Who knows perhaps high speed 802.11ad or its successor will be fast enough to make them as convenient as decent bluetooth audio headsets are now. But at this point this sort of tech is probably something that’ll come out in the 2020s and not the 2010s. I’m basing this guess on current tech in lab and early versions in the wild. I could be completely off, but if I were implementing AR/VR it, this is probably what I would go for.

    So, whether or not people think its cool or everyone has their own idea of where it might go (or not go), people will still hammer away at it. Now, consider Cooks comments remind me of his comments about Google Glass a bit. When asked about it, he said Apple was interested in wearables but alluded to other places to wear them. Now we see what he meant.

    So, while I am guessing here, I think Apple will do what it has done the last 15 years: let other trail blaze the portable sector and learn from their shortcomings. Then Apple will develop their own device that surpasses everyone else, just like they did with the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad and Apple Watch. I’m only drawing from history though, so take it for what that’s worth.
    nolamacguy
  • Reply 10 of 24
    gatorguy said:
    Well that settles it. If Apple now says it's "cool" they have a product on the way for that slot. 
    "Cool" comes before "hobby" when Apple has a product but is still not in with both feet. It's when Apple starts advertising the product that it moves out of being a hobby and they start depending in it to for income.
  • Reply 11 of 24
    Let Google/FB Oculus/Microsoft do all the leg work and revisit with a polished product launch.
    nolamacguy
  • Reply 12 of 24
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,556member
    Let Google/FB Oculus/Microsoft do all the leg work and revisit with a polished product launch.
    Yup, that's what Apple does. 
  • Reply 13 of 24
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,509member
    ac1234 said:
    I don't think Tim Cook would recognize "cool" if it jumped up and bit him in the ass.
    Spoken like the chihuahua that does the jumping and biting. 
    nolamacguy
  • Reply 14 of 24
    dysamoria said:
    Mostly people just want the fantastical fictional versions of these technologies seen in techno-fantasy tv and film: they want free-standing "holographs" (not physically possible, despite people repeatedly being told they are by fiction) and the ability to "jack in" to "cyberspace" with a direct link between the brain and a computer generated environment (currently also technically impossible but maybe not ultimately physically impossible if people figure out how to send and receive sensory data directly to and from the brain while locking out the actual data coming from the body to the brain- we're talking way more than "20 years away" here, since the best integration between electronics and human nervous system is blunt and stupid reaction to simple nerve impulses to drive very simple actions; NOT "thought control" so much as it's peripheral nerve control over devices connected with electrodes to sense nerve impulses).
    934 characters in one single sentence — not bad.
    nolamacguyfastasleep
  • Reply 15 of 24

    ac1234 said:
    I don't think Tim Cook would recognize "cool" if it jumped up and bit him in the ass.
    Oh, I think he would notice it then.
    edited January 2016
  • Reply 16 of 24
    This could be an area that Apple again waits and then brings mainstream. The largest hurdle right now seems to be cost and a clear direction of what we plan to do with VR. If Apple can develop a mainstream graphics chip technology that can handle the load so to speak but also come in at a good price point this could get the job done. I know it is a stretch but a thought none the less.
  • Reply 17 of 24
    I'll say it's cool too. And I'll do so for $250,000/year. I'm a cheap date!
  • Reply 18 of 24
    I never paid attention to VR until I seriously got into OBEs (out-of-body experiences) a few years ago. This is achieved through meditation. I'm still stuck in the low level dimensions but one of the top practitioners in the world happens to be a graphic artist who uses the now defunct Oculus DK2. You can get a glimpse of what's out there through his galleries. See "Gateways" at the bottom of his page: http://www.multidimensionalman.com/
  • Reply 19 of 24
    steviestevie Posts: 956member
    When Apple comes out with VR, it will be 5 years ahead of what others are doing now.
  • Reply 20 of 24
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    cnocbui said:
    gatorguy said:
    Well that settles it. If Apple now says it's "cool" they have a product on the way for that slot. 
    Maybe.  My son and I think VR needs a killer app to trigger ignition.  If Valve had come up with a VR Half Life 3, that might have done it and kicked things off but they haven't so we are wondering what these soon to be released VR headsets are going to be used for.  They require an expensive graphics card to run and an all-round high performance machine and the headsets and and associated peripherals aren't cheap.  Why would people people invest in this when theres pretty much nothing to do with them once acquired?
    Occulus Rift was only formerly announced at CES and isnt available. despite this, Valve and other game devs have been working w/ the dev kits for years. there are things in the pipeline. when the device is out youll see software for it.
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