Apple: We’re Seriously into Augmented Reality

| Analysis

Apparently it’s big news that Apple is working on augmented reality projects—or more accurately, Apple CEO Tim Cook stripped away enough of his code-speak and made it very clear his company is seriously pursuing AR technology.

In an interview with the Washington Post where Mr. Cook talked about how Apple is always working on new ideas and projects in its labs, he said,

I think AR is extremely interesting and sort of a core technology. So, yes, it’s something we’re doing a lot of things on behind that curtain that we talked about.

To be clear, Mr. Cook said Apple is working on AR-related projects and he sees that as a big business opportunity. It’s also something Mr. Cook has said before, although this time it’s more succinct.

Piper Jaffray analyst used Apple’s most recent quarterly earnings report conference call to ask about the company’s augmented reality and virtual reality efforts in light of Pokémon GO’s popularity. Pokémon GO is a game where players seek out real world locations where they “see” Pokémon characters superimposed on whatever is in their smartphone camera’s view finder.

Apple augmented reality

Yes, Apple is serious about augmented reality

The response Apple’s CEO gave came in what TMO’s Bryan Chaffin calls Cook Code, meaning telling us something without actually saying it. His response to Mr. Munster was clearly Cook Code wrapped around a big message.

“We are high on AR in the long run. We think [AR offers] great things for customers and a great commercial opportunity,” Mr. Cook said. “So we’re investing, and the number one thing is to make sure our products work well with other developers products like Pokémon.”

His statement can be distilled down to, “We are high on AR in the long run, so we’re investing,” and that’s Tim Cook’s way of saying Apple is serious about the AR market and is already working on projects in that space.

Apple telegraphed its interest in AR well before the Cook Code started. News surfaced in January that Apple hired virtual reality expert Doug Bowman, and a few days later word of the company’s secret virtual reality and augmented reality team surfaced. A few weeks later, Apple bought virtual reality company Metaio.

Reading Apple’s Tea Leaves

The real news isn’t that Apple is working on AR technology, but that it’s serious enough about it to openly warn competitors that something is coming. The mystery is in figuring out what’s up Apple’s augmented reality sleeve.

It’s a safe bet Apple isn’t going for a face-mounted device like Google Glass, Microsoft’s Hololens, or Oculus Rift. Apple will likely—at least to start—turn to the iPhone and its built-in cameras for its AR efforts. The company could also have AR on the table for its Project Titan electric car project in the form of a heads up display for drivers.

Why the iPhone instead of a new product? There’s some Cook Code for that. When asked about the future of the iPhone, Mr. Cook turned the conversation to artificial intelligence—another area where Apple is investing heavily.

“Look at the core technologies that make up the smartphone today and look at the ones that will be dominant in smartphones of the future—like AI. AI will make this product even more essential to you,” Mr. Cook said. “It will become even a better assistant than it is today. So where you probably aren’t leaving home without it today—you’re really going to be connected to it in the future.”

Apple wants to make the iPhone indispensable, and AI is playing a big role in that plan. An indispensable iPhone is an iPhone that’s always with you, making it an easy choice for AR, too. Instead of carrying yet another device everywhere you go, simply use the the one that’s always there: your iPhone.

From Apple’s perspective, that makes AR an extension of existing platforms such as the iPhone. Mr. Cook telegraphed that, too, in his earnings report response to Mr. Munster.

“I think AR can be huge,” he said. “We’ll see whether it’s the next platform, but regardless, it will be huge.”

Wrap that up with Mr. Cook’s new comments, and it’s pretty clear Apple is serious about AR and wants everyone to know it. The bonus is that we already have Apple’s AR platform and won’t have to invest in clunky glasses.

3 Comments Add a comment

  1. If they can find a way to make it useful, that’s great. Mostly, for myself (outside of the novelty of gaming etc.), it really just gets in the way and makes things less efficient. We really seem to be regressing over the past five or so years on that front, technology was supposed to make the activities of our lives easier, not more cumbersome. ‘That’s so cool!’ doesn’t always get work done in the best way possible.

  2. ‘That’s so cool!’ doesn’t always get work done in the best way possible.

    Thank you Jeff for the nice article and Jaime for the comment; wish I’d said that. It’s easy to get excited about the marking hype. Just because it’s new doesn’t, ipso facto, make it better than any technology it might potentially replace.

  3. CudaBoy

    Apple sure does a lot of talking with nothing to show. With AR and VR – they can easily wait while blathering to see how the chips fall with the innovators at HTC and Occulus.

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