Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Tim Cook has been talking an awful lot lately about augmented reality — or AR. The latest episode was last week, when he compared the technology to the iPhone in terms of its potential to be big.
After months of repeatedly playing up AR in public, it’s beginning to feel as if Cook is setting the expectations of the press and public about the technology.
That begs the question: Is Apple Inc. planning a major augmented reality announcement?
AR vs. VR: What’s the Difference?
Augmented reality is related to virtual reality — or VR — but the two are also very different.
Virtual reality uses technology to completely immerse people in a virtual world. This requires powerful computing hardware and special headgear. VR has spent several years as the next big thing, culminating with Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) buying VR pioneer Oculus for $2 billion in 2014.
Virtual reality hasn’t quite caught on in a big way — the expensive and awkward equipment is a big hurdle to overcome — but gamers have begun embracing it.
So far, Apple has shown no interest in virtual reality and Tim Cook has actually made a point in several interviews of downplaying VR. In the latest, when Cook spoke to The Independent, he laments the fact that virtual reality “closes the world out.”
“Most people don’t want to lock themselves out from the world for a long period of time and today you can’t do that because you get sick from it.”
The antisocial aspects of virtual reality, the equipment requirements and side effects such as motion sickness have been common themes in Cook’s argument against virtual reality.
However, he is very excited by augmented reality and its ability to go mainstream. Instead of locking a person into a virtual world, AR overlays the existing world with additional information. One of the most popular examples of AR in action is the game Pokemon Go, released last summer. That game was the most downloaded app of 2016 on Apple Inc.’s App Store.
Is Apple Inc. Planning a Major AR Announcement?
Tim Cook’s views on augmented reality seem to have been getting more positive in the past few months, reaching the point where he’s actively hyping the technology. In October, he said:
“I do think that a significant portion of the population of developed countries, and eventually all countries, will have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day. It will become that much a part of you.”
And last week, he told The Independent:
“I regard it as a big idea like 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.”
What’s holding AR back is the technology.