Tim Cook is in Europe and – along with visiting the UK set of the Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso – he’s speaking to tech channels in every country he’s visiting.
Right now he’s in Milan, though while in Denmark, his conversation with tech publication Bright went some way to reinforcing Apple’s take on future tech and potentially where the hard- and software giant will be heading in the future.
Via Google Translate, “Cook told students that soon we will look back on a life without AR as we are now looking back on a life without a smartphone, or without the internet. “It won’t be that long,” Cook said.”
“AR apps are already in the App Store, but the possibilities will go much, much further,” Cook told Bright. “I think AR is a profound technology that will affect everything. Imagine suddenly being able to teach with AR and demonstrate things that way. Or medically, and so on. Like I said, we are really going to look back and think about how we once lived without AR.”
And while Cook is clearly enthusiastic about AR – an ongoing theme and a rumoured potential new line of hardware and software products – it’s apparent that isn’t quite so enthusiastic about the metaverse or any kind of virtual replacement for the real world.
Metaverse? What’s that?
“I always think it’s important that people understand what something is. And I’m really not sure the average person can tell you what the metaverse is,” he said. “VR is something you can really immerse yourself in. And that can be used in a good way. But I don’t think you want to live your whole life that way. VR is for set periods, but not a way to communicate well. So I’m not against it, but that’s how I look at it,” Cook said.
Increasingly Apple would appear to be setting their AR/VR stall up and building their particular world in a rather different part of town…
While rivals at Meta continue to go all in with metaverse themes and the adoption and promotion of virtual reality as the answer to practically everything, it’s clear that Apple are taking a more cautious, stand-back approach.
Reading between these lines it’s easy to see Apple’s focus on pure utility rather than any kind of grasping at new ideas for new ideas sake. In short, while virtual reality can be fun, Cook and co are only too aware that diving into a virtual world by necessity means having to leave the real one – a move that they’re not convinced will always be the smartest.
Meanwhile in the Meta camp…
Meta on the other hand feel that the risks in travelling from the real world into a virtual one will always be worth the journey. Sure, there’ll be bad actors, the tech involved may be uncomfortable, bulky and limiting and the experience at the end of the day may not quite deliver, but they’re playing an all-in game. It’s a tried and tested tech trope – things might not be great right now, but they will get better.
Instead Apple’s focus on AR – adding useful utility to the real world rather than attempting to replace it – feels far more cautious and will attract far less ire. This from a company that’s famous for building on tech hurdles leapt elsewhere and only releasing their take when they deem it perfect.
What’s around the corner?
So what does all the evidence point at? What WILL we be getting from Apple?
We’re predicting a smaller, lighter AR offering, distinct from the eye-covering ‘goggle’ approach we’ve seen elsewhere. Think ‘glasses’ rather than ‘headset’ with the user obtaining unobtrusive notifications and heads-up assistance to complement the real world rather than replace its wholesale.
This is, of course, at the time of writing, pure speculation. But while Apple’s hardware and software next steps into a ‘virtual world’ are yet to be revealed, with each passing comment and hint it’s increasingly clear that Apple’s take on what’s best and what consumers will really want and enjoy couldn’t be further away from Meta’s.
Time will tell which approach wins out.