Despite its recent advances in mobile augmented reality (AR) software and hardware, Apple likely won't be creating AR glasses or a headset any time soon. In an interview with The Independent, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the technology needed to build such a product the right way simply "doesn't exist."
The statement may come as a surprise to some, given that Apple's September launch of its ARKit seemed to highlight the company's growing interest in the space. And, Apple's iPhone 8 was recently called the "first smartphone designed for AR" by Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller.
But Apple isn't necessarily known as a company that rushes into new technologies or trends, preferring to wait for the technology to develop to a certain point before throwing their hat in the ring. That's exactly what they're doing with AR glasses and headsets, Cook said in the interview.
SEE: Virtual and augmented reality policy (Tech Pro Research)
Instead of worrying about being first, Cook said in the interview, Apple is worried about being the best, and providing a "great experience." He added that any type of head-mounted AR device that could make it to market "any time soon" wouldn't be something that anyone in Apple's camp "would be satisfied with. Nor do I think the vast majority of people would be satisfied."
Instead, it's clear that the firm is focusing its AR efforts on mobile, with ARKit supporting older phones like the iPhone 6S. In essence, that means that Apple is forgoing some enterprise applications of AR to target consumers for now.
AR headsets are often bulky, unattractive, and expensive, which could drive many consumer users away. Smartphones, however, lower many of the barriers to entry into AR for consumers, as it often requires only a simple OS update, or downloading a new app and using a much cheaper Google Cardboard-like face mount.
However, one area where AR headsets are being adopted is the enterprise. Businesses often don't care as much about the looks of a product, and potential use cases like sophisticated training, product demonstrations, and more help make it easier to justify the monetary investment.
The iPhone 8 and iPhone X could potentially provide some interesting AR use cases for businesses, but they won't be able to match the sophistication of the experience offered by separate headsets.
Facebook-owned Oculus seems to have realized the growing business audience for its products, recently launching the Oculus for Business bundle and a cheaper Oculus Go headset.
There's no telling whether or not Apple will ever release a physical AR headset or set of AR glasses, but it's a definite possibility. However, the timing of such a release would be dependent on how much value Apple sees in the potential enterprise use cases for such a device.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- In an interview with The Independent Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the technology for AR headsets or glasses "doesn't exist," and that nothing in the market would be up to Apple's standards.
- Apple's AR efforts are focused more on mobile, with its ARKit developer kit and its AR-ready iPhone 8 and iPhone X announcements that came in September.
- Full AR headsets and glasses have gained a strong enterprise following, but Apple seems more focused on consumers with its smartphone AR play.
- Executive's guide to the business value of VR and AR (free ebook) (TechRepublic)
- Apple CEO Tim Cook: It's still too early for quality AR headsets (ZDNet)
- Build 30 Mini Virtual Reality Games in Unity 3D From Scratch (TechRepublic)
- Apple previews ARKit apps, Google debuts ARCore: It's all about business, developers (ZDNet)
- 5 iOS augmented reality apps professionals should try today (TechRepublic)
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.