Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the technology for augmented reality smart glasses doesn't exist yet. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

With the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and the upcoming iPhone X, Apple is betting big on augmented reality. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently sat down for an interview and shed some light on his company’s future plans for AR, including the possibility of the AR smart glasses.

The Apple CEO compared its efforts in augmented reality with how the tech giant first launched the App Store back in 2008. Cook pointed out that back then, people were skeptical that mobile apps would be successful. But now, it seems like people can’t imagine a world without apps on their smartphones.

“There was the initial round of apps and people looked at them and said, ‘this is not anything, mobile apps are not going to take off,’” Cook told The Independent. “And then step by step things start to move. And it is sort of a curve, it was just exponential – and now you couldn’t imagine your life without apps. Your health is on one app, your financials, your shopping, your news, your entertainment – it’s everything. AR is like that. It will be that dramatic.”

The CEO also compared AR to how Apple pioneered the technology behind the iPhone’s multi-touch touchscreen display. When Apple came out with the very first iPhone, some people didn’t see it as being important, but now it truly is for all smartphones.

It’s clear that Apple believes that AR on its iOS devices is going to be big someday. The challenge now is if developers are willing to create countless numbers of apps that support the technology and whether users would find it useful in their everyday lives.

Right now, Apple’s augmented reality platform, called ARKit, lives natively within the iOS 11 operating system. It’s available on iPhones as old as the iPhone 6s, all of the iPad Pro models, the iPad 2017 and most recent iPad mini.

“The products themselves have to have a lot of processing power, and a fair amount of different sensor technology in order to do this locational stuff,” Cook said. “So having it on iPhone changes the game for developers, because instantly they had hundreds of millions of potential customers.” This is also why Cook believes that Apple is now the largest AR platform.

There’s a lot of room for developers and users to explore the possibilities of augmented reality through ARKit on mobile devices. But beyond that, what is Apple planning for future devices?

Cook told The Independent that Apple doesn’t talk about what they’re working on, but did confirm something related to recent rumors. Back in July, IBT reported that Apple filed for a patent describing a pair of smart glasses that can use augmented reality technology to overlay user interface elements in real world environments.

The Apple CEO said the technology to integrate AR on a pair of smart glasses doesn’t exist yet and that kind of tech today wouldn’t be implemented “in a quality way.” Cook also said that the display technology required for AR smart glasses poses huge challenges. He said that the field of view and the quality of the display itself is simply “not there yet.”

The Apple CEO said that they’re not interested in simply being first, but they want to be the best. If the tech giant released something that’s not ready yet, people wouldn’t be satisfied with it. Finally, Cook said that most technology challenges can be solved, but the real question is how long it would take.

Whether or not Apple plans to release its own pair of AR smart glasses, it’s clear that augmented reality is something that the tech giant is taking seriously and the company’s competitors are already taking notice, too.

Google recently launched its own augmented reality platform called ARCore for its Android operating system. ARCore is very much like Apple’s ARKit in the sense that it’s integrated in its own mobile operating system. Although Apple may be leading in AR right now, Google’s prowess in machine learning and software engineering is undeniable. Right now, it’s far too early to tell which company will come out on top of the AR race.