Tim Cook says AR is a 'big idea,' likens tech to smartphone

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2017
Apple CEO Tim Cook continues to drop hints about the company's ambitions to enter the augmented reality space, most recently saying the technology is "for everyone," much like the now ubiquitous smartphone.


Tim Cook (right) visiting Tate Britain with curator Chris Stephens.


The Independent caught up with Cook during a visit with UK-based app developer ustwo, makers of the hit iOS game Monument Valley. The Apple chief is on the third leg of an extended European tour that included stops in France, Germany and the UK.

Aside from expectedly positive commentary regarding the health of Apple's developer community and vague allusions to an innovation-packed product pipeline, Cook briefly touched on the burgeoning field of augmented reality. While Apple has yet to release a consumer AR solution, the technology is quickly becoming the company's new "hobby."

Reiterating his excitement over the prospects of AR, Cook said the tech holds more promise than its cousin virtual reality, which "closes the world out."

Cook made similar comments in past interviews, suggesting Apple is looking to market an AR or mixed reality system in the future. Whereas VR puts users in a completely digitized 3D environment, AR is best described as a layer of digital information overlaid onto the physical world. Mixed reality takes the notion of AR a step further by allowing users to interact with both virtual assets and real physical objects at the same time.

During an investors conference call last year, Cook said Apple is investing in AR as the tech holds great value for customers. Elaborating on the topic in today's interview, he called AR a "big idea" akin to the smartphone.

"The smartphone is for everyone, we don't have to think the iPhone is about a certain demographic, or country or vertical market: it's for everyone. I think AR is that big, it's huge," Cook said. "I get excited because of the things that could be done that could improve a lot of lives. And be entertaining."

Though some regard AR as a device or product, Cook views it as a core technology.

"I view AR like I view the silicon here in my iPhone, it's not a product per se, it's a core technology. But there are things to discover before that technology is good enough for the mainstream," he said. "I do think there can be a lot of things that really help people out in daily life, real-life things, that's why I get so excited about it."

Cook unsurprisingly stopped short of announcing exactly what Apple has in mind for AR, but his remarks make it clear that the field is of intense interest.

Apple is quickly growing out its internal AR team through strategic hires and acquisitions including motion capture specialist Faceshift, machine learning and computer vision startup Perceptio, German AR firm Metaio and Flyby Media, among others. Those acquisitions go hand-in-hand with in-house development of transparent displays, iPhone-powered VR rigs, AR maps and other related technologies described in recent patent filings.

Last month, Apple was reassigned IP from Metaio for an AR device with advanced point of interest labelling. Specifically, a pair of patents detail a mobile AR system -- or smartphone -- capable of detecting its surroundings and displaying generated virtual information to users in real time.

Recent rumors claim Apple is working with optics manufacturer Carl Zeiss on a specialized AR headset that could debut this year. Less ambitious, and perhaps more believable, are rumblings that Apple will first integrate AR hardware and software into a future iPhone model before going all in with a standalone head mounted display.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 37
    Tim Cook is the only person I know that can say paragraph after paragraph of words that give you very little information. It's a waste of my time reading it. "We have some great products in the pipeline." -- every year
    edited February 2017 bruce ketchumewtheckman
  • Reply 2 of 37
    fallenjt_Newfallenjt_New Posts: 10unconfirmed, member
    bdkennedy said:
    Tim Cook is the only person I know that can say paragraph after paragraph of words that give you very little information. It's a waste of my time reading it. "We have some great products in the pipeline." -- every year
    "Thrilled"
  • Reply 3 of 37
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    More promise than it's VR cousin?

    You think Apple millionaire employees don't have access to the latest and all VR tech on the market? For Tim so say such a thing, it means a lot. I can almost imagine what he's talking about. 
  • Reply 4 of 37
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,764member
    cali said:
    More promise than it's VR cousin?

    You think Apple millionaire employees don't have access to the latest and all VR tech on the market? For Tim so say such a thing, it means a lot. I can almost imagine what he's talking about. 
    You promote what you're going to sell. If they have no plans at the moment for VR then of course he'll talk up AR and diss whatever is on the market now. I suspect at some future point VR will also be OK with Apple just as "phablets" are, another thing they once talked down as silly. 
    edited February 2017 slprescottleavingthebigg
  • Reply 5 of 37
    One of the reasons why I think augmentation on top of actual reality has far more promise than isolated VR is that it can maintain a connection to the physical, three-dimensional world around us. Plus, theoretically, "augmentation" can be scalable from showing just a few ID tags on top of objects, all the way to full immersion/VR, if you really need it.

    The implications of this are far reaching. Everything from warehousing and industrial maintenance, to research, and to way-finding and entertainment could be built on the same basic platform.

    While we are probably a ways off from a "retina" resolution AR system, in one example, I can imagine that my desktop monitors give way to "virtual" monitors, that may be "anchored" in place on my physical desk, but can be sized, re-positioned, or multiplied easily. 3D imagery would be a snap. Heck, even that pile of physical papers and other crap could be augmentations that can be searched, shuffled, swept away and restored with a few gestures. Kind of like Minority Report, but without some big, physical projection/display system viewable by anyone else in the room.

    I can't imagine that this future office wouldn't still be surrounded by many physical things, like a chair and desk. And I would not want to lose my actual coffee cup with my actual coffee in it! (Hopefully, I won't mistake it for an AR cup and try to sweep it off my desk too).

    PS: As the Google Glass episode reminds me, I realize there are social issues that go along with the notion of a population having the capability of walking around in public with AR. Like I say, far reaching implications...both positive and negative.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 37
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    gatorguy said:
    cali said:
    More promise than it's VR cousin?

    You think Apple millionaire employees don't have access to the latest and all VR tech on the market? For Tim so say such a thing, it means a lot. I can almost imagine what he's talking about. 
    You promote what you're going to sell. If they have no plans right now for VR then of course he'll talk up AR and diss whatever is on the market now. I suspect at some future point VR will also be OK with Apple just as "phablets" are now. 
    I don't think so. I feel they have come up with a ton of applications that we may not yet thought of.

    You really think Tim is spewing this out of his backside only to deliver a mediocre product that can only fly digital drones and maybe play a few games?

    What about hiking and you can activate tags for every plant, animal and object in view? Pointing at an interest pulls up a paragraph of information.

    Remember that article a few days back about a chip that can detect chemicals? The one that can detect what's in your food? That's a great start.

    Remember these features can be added to iOS and these features are things VR can't even dream of. 
    edited February 2017 patchythepirateStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 37
    Sorry Cook, I call BS.

    VR potential is 1000X greater than AR.

    What Cook is talking about is what Apples investors can expect from Apple in the next 5-10 years.

    The reality is VR is HARD and we should limit our expectations (near term), but longer term it has enormous potential.

    Take a look at the F-35 helmet, it's probably the closest we have to true VR, and it's still incredibly primitive to where the technology will be in 10-20 years.  The helmet currently cost $400,000 each....

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/news/a19764/the-f-35s-third-generation-magic-helmet-is-here/ ;


  • Reply 8 of 37
    bdkennedy said:
    Tim Cook is the only person I know that can say paragraph after paragraph of words that give you very little information. It's a waste of my time reading it. "We have some great products in the pipeline." -- every year

    I have to agree. The challenge: How do you share information - get people excited - without reducing your competitiveness. Tricky and risky marketing tactic.

    I think of Apple's event invitations. The graphics and enigmatic message always get people guessing and excited. But the invitations never give anything away. Tim Cook might do well to message more excitement and mystery in his interviews.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 37
    Sorry Cook, I call BS.

    VR potential is 1000X greater than AR.

    What Cook is talking about is what Apples investors can expect from Apple in the next 5-10 years.

    The reality is VR is HARD and we should limit our expectations (near term), but longer term it has enormous potential.

    Take a look at the F-35 helmet, it's probably the closest we have to true VR, and it's still incredibly primitive to where the technology will be in 10-20 years.  The helmet currently cost $400,000 each....

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/news/a19764/the-f-35s-third-generation-magic-helmet-is-here/ ;


    Ok, but no one was asking Tim what will be big 10 to 20 years from now.  I agree with you that that far in the future VR could be huge (hell, we'll all just lie in bed hooked into the Matrix and never leave the house).  But in the next 5 years?  I think TC is right that AR is going to be less niche than VR.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 37
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,634member
    Sorry Cook, I call BS.

    VR potential is 1000X greater than AR.

    What Cook is talking about is what Apples investors can expect from Apple in the next 5-10 years.

    The reality is VR is HARD and we should limit our expectations (near term), but longer term it has enormous potential.

    Take a look at the F-35 helmet, it's probably the closest we have to true VR, and it's still incredibly primitive to where the technology will be in 10-20 years.  The helmet currently cost $400,000 each....

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/news/a19764/the-f-35s-third-generation-magic-helmet-is-here/ ;


    Very interesting, but what you've described here is Augmented Reality, not Virtual Reality. 

    Even the part where the pilot can see through the floor of the plane is AR. 

    If it was VR then he wouldn't be in the plane at all. 
    randominternetpersonleavingthebiggStrangeDaysewtheckmanwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 37
    steven n.steven n. Posts: 1,120member
    Sorry Cook, I call BS.

    VR potential is 1000X greater than AR.

    What Cook is talking about is what Apples investors can expect from Apple in the next 5-10 years.

    The reality is VR is HARD and we should limit our expectations (near term), but longer term it has enormous potential.

    Take a look at the F-35 helmet, it's probably the closest we have to true VR, and it's still incredibly primitive to where the technology will be in 10-20 years.  The helmet currently cost $400,000 each....

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/news/a19764/the-f-35s-third-generation-magic-helmet-is-here/ ;


    You do realize the F-35 HMD and its very similar EruoFighter HMD is a perfect example on how much AR is over the much more limited VR?

    AR is a pure superset of VR.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 37
    I completely dislike Tim's statement. In the end, a consumer buys a product, not a technology. 
    SJ was always careful to develop technology that actually solved a problem, not the other way round (there are exceptions, such as iLife). 
    I just feel that TC almost anxiously tries to announce the next disruptive invention front Apple. Before, this was never done. The consumers' wallets decided on this. 
  • Reply 13 of 37
    lukeilukei Posts: 332member
    The enclosed world of VR is never going to be as big as AR which has more applications and is less intrusive. To think otherwise is bizarre to say the least. 
  • Reply 14 of 37
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,764member
    cali said:
    gatorguy said:
    cali said:
    More promise than it's VR cousin?

    You think Apple millionaire employees don't have access to the latest and all VR tech on the market? For Tim so say such a thing, it means a lot. I can almost imagine what he's talking about. 
    You promote what you're going to sell. If they have no plans right now for VR then of course he'll talk up AR and diss whatever is on the market now. I suspect at some future point VR will also be OK with Apple just as "phablets" are now. 
    I don't think so. I feel they have come up with a ton of applications that we may not yet thought of.

    You really think Tim is spewing this out of his backside only to deliver a mediocre product that can only fly digital drones and maybe play a few games?

    What about hiking and you can activate tags for every plant, animal and object in view? Pointing at an interest pulls up a paragraph of information.

    Remember that article a few days back about a chip that can detect chemicals? The one that can detect what's in your food? That's a great start.

    Remember these features can be added to iOS and these features are things VR can't even dream of. 
    No one said anything about a mediocre product. Google Glass would have offered much of what you just mentioned, almost certainly capable of ID'ing plants and animals and serving up pertinent info. It was a very worthy first product for an AR wearable. As another poster mentioned it was the social aspect of it, and primarily that it had a camera, that got the brunt of the concerns and eventually killed it for Joe Consumer, pushing it to niche uses in medicine and industrial. (yes it's still an active product). 

    Somebody has to go first and as I believe you yourself have said in the past that company very often is not Apple. They come in once the ideas are sown, initial pluses and minuses identified, relevant/more compact components are under production and the timing seems right. My guess is all those criteria are now met, with the social aspects being the remaining issue that can't be completely controlled. 
    edited February 2017 roundaboutnow
  • Reply 15 of 37
    Sorry Cook, I call BS.

    VR potential is 1000X greater than AR.

    What Cook is talking about is what Apples investors can expect from Apple in the next 5-10 years.

    The reality is VR is HARD and we should limit our expectations (near term), but longer term it has enormous potential.

    Take a look at the F-35 helmet, it's probably the closest we have to true VR, and it's still incredibly primitive to where the technology will be in 10-20 years.  The helmet currently cost $400,000 each....

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/news/a19764/the-f-35s-third-generation-magic-helmet-is-here/ ;


    VR = Majority Entertainment 
    AR = Everything Else

    Apple understands that AR has myriad real world applications for productivity.  The largedt market is productivity through practical application of augmentation.  We live and work in reality (most of us).  Immersive VR has all the practical application of a video game or an acid trip - or playing a video game whilst on acid.  Sooner or later, reality intervenes.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 37
    Check out this presentation...  The applications are limitless...  
    Apple bought Metaio in May 2015.
    Take a look at the software / infrastructure stack starting at 4:32 in the video, it fits very nicely into Apple's software / infrastructure.




    edited February 2017 patchythepirateleavingthebigg
  • Reply 17 of 37
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    Cook has been touting AR non stop for the last year which makes me think there is something imminent; probably this autumn.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 37
    I completely dislike Tim's statement. In the end, a consumer buys a product, not a technology. 
    SJ was always careful to develop technology that actually solved a problem, not the other way round (there are exceptions, such as iLife). 
    I just feel that TC almost anxiously tries to announce the next disruptive invention front Apple. Before, this was never done. The consumers' wallets decided on this. 
    Here's the quote:  
    "I view AR like I view the silicon here in my iPhone, it's not a product per se, it's a core technology. But there are things to discover before that technology is good enough for the mainstream," he said. "I do think there can be a lot of things that really help people out in daily life, real-life things, that's why I get so excited about it."

    What part of that says, to you, "Tim thinks consumers buy a technology"?  He's excited about the POTENTIAL of AR to make incredible new solutions and new products.  It's not going to BE the product.

    Edit:  I just realized you may be reacting to the headline of this story--which misrepresents Tim's point.  He doesn't "liken [AR] to smartphone" he likens AR to the hardware technologies that made the smartphones possible.
    edited February 2017 anantksundaramRayz2016
  • Reply 19 of 37
    gatorguy said:
    cali said:
    More promise than it's VR cousin?

    You think Apple millionaire employees don't have access to the latest and all VR tech on the market? For Tim so say such a thing, it means a lot. I can almost imagine what he's talking about. 
    You promote what you're going to sell. If they have no plans right now for VR then of course he'll talk up AR and diss whatever is on the market now. I suspect at some future point VR will also be OK with Apple just as "phablets" are now. 
    That may be true, but do you really think that Apple does not have the chops or the resources to take on VR if they wanted to? And "if they have no plans now" could it be because they don't see much a future in it, at least for now?

    I think that VR is just gimmicky nonsense at this point. Except perhaps in some fields like surgery. It has all the style and elan of Google Glass and 3D glasses. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 37
    I completely dislike Tim's statement. In the end, a consumer buys a product, not a technology. 
    SJ was always careful to develop technology that actually solved a problem, not the other way round (there are exceptions, such as iLife). 
    I just feel that TC almost anxiously tries to announce the next disruptive invention front Apple. Before, this was never done. The consumers' wallets decided on this. 
    Here's the quote:  
    "I view AR like I view the silicon here in my iPhone, it's not a product per se, it's a core technology. But there are things to discover before that technology is good enough for the mainstream," he said. "I do think there can be a lot of things that really help people out in daily life, real-life things, that's why I get so excited about it."

    What part of that says, to you, "Tim thinks consumers buy a technology"?  He's excited about the POTENTIAL of AR to make incredible new solutions and new products.  It's not going to BE the product.

    Edit:  I just realized you may be reacting to the headline of this story--which misrepresents Tim's point.  He doesn't "liken [AR] to smartphone" he likens AR to the hardware technologies that made the smartphones possible.
    Actually, I read the independent article. And didn't completely finish because half way through it was already too much "it's so cool" from him. Our have a point: upon reading the article till the end I came across your quote. Having said that, I still stand by my statement that i feel he's trying to annoy nice "he will will soon have the next big thing, at least as big as the iPhone". And again, if prefer if he'd let the product and the consumers speak ;)
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