Tim Cook Says Augmented Reality is as Big an Opportunity as iPhone

Apple Inc. is rumored to have augmented reality smart glasses ready to go into production in 2020, which will overlay the wearer’s field of view with digital text and images. In a letter to investors this spring, securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities claims that, “Apple’s new AR product will go into mass production as soon as the fourth quarter of this year.”

Apple is Investing in Augmented Reality

“Metaio augmented reality has been used by Ikea. The firm has been bought by Apple. Potential applications could include augmented reality on mobile handsets or smart-glasses.” –The Irish Times / Reuters, June 4, 2015

Apple’s CEO “Tim Apple” said in February 2017 that AR is “for everyone.”

Cook said:

“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. I get excited because of the things that could be done that could improve a lot of lives. And be entertaining.”

That was a year after Apple Inc.’s purchase of Munich, Germany-based augmented reality software company Metaio. The AR company’s discoveries have been applied by Ikea to help customers preview how furniture would look in a space using augmented reality on a tablet.

“A True Use for Virtual and Augmented Reality”

Released in July 2016, augmented reality game Pokémon Go ignited a worldwide mobile gaming craze. It was downloaded 500 million times by the end of 2016. As of Dec 2018, it has grossed $3 billion in worldwide revenue.

At Apple Insider, William Gallagher argues:

“We don’t need more technology.

“We need someone to find a true use for Virtual and Augmented Reality. Apple is just the firm to do it –since it’s done the same thing twice before.”

We already have used our smart phones and tablets for augmented reality.

Pokémon Go is an outstanding example of that.

Another is mobile planetarium apps like Star Walk and Night Sky, which are stunning deployments of Augmented Reality for educational purposes as well as general awe and wonder for the vastness and strangeness of the cosmos we inhabit:

Star Walk App

But these are just a taste of augmented reality.

You get to experience the world of Pokémon Go- or the world of someone with a thorough knowledge of the constellations and stars, on a clear night, at a high altitude, away from any city light pollution- but only through a 144 x 71mm screen.

It’s not full augmented reality. We get an enormous amount of satisfaction out of it, but it’s a small piece of augmented reality. It’s a tiny keyhole we can peek through at these reality augmentations, but it’s not like really being in the room with them.

Sure you can move the little window around to peer at the augmented reality world at different angles, but you can only get a tiny sliver of the entire field of view.

Smart phones and tablets are amazing in themselves. They are also a thought experiment about augmented reality through glasses.

Night Sky App

There are many possible uses for augmented reality. The Night Sky and Star Walk apps are as educational as they are fun and entertaining. Imagine having the right AR headset for that.

The educational and gaming possibilities are endless, as are practical applications like hands free maps, and all kinds of other specialized HUDs. It will also be nice to read or watch something without having to hold up your phone. Serious 21st Century problems.

Imagine though, being able to have the use of both hands for your steering wheel when getting directions, instead of holding your phone in one hand and the wheel in the other, and taking your eyes off the road to look at your phone!

What if you could keep your eyes on the road and both hands on the steering wheel while a heads-up display created by a digital graphic overlay on your glasses guides you with a blue line on the road in front of you to show you which turn to take?

Could save a lot of lives and money.

But it won’t be a reality until someone with some design magic steps up and creates a truly nice to use device that looks good on the wearer.

And there has to be some sex appeal. People called Google Glass wearers glassholes. But maybe it was how the glasses looked, not an aversion to smart glasses.

By the time anyone was wearing Google glass out people already had their phones out all the time with cameras pointing everywhere in every room.

Maybe it wasn’t privacy people were concerned about at all. Maybe the glasses were just too conspicuous, and ugly, and strange.

Apple’s Design Magic

Photo of Google Glass by Dan Leveille

There was nothing really sexy or cool about the Blackberry, but Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive made you want to lick the iPhone’s apps right off the screen.

As Apple makes moves in software, it may yet be the bold, pioneering hardware designer for which the world has lavishly rewarded it before.

Apple’s design North Star is ordering complexity into simplicity, and Apple’s glasses will reportedly be a simple display and camera, and a power source, with the ability to connect to the iPhone to handle the complexity and make the magic happen.

Instead of building an entire computer into Apple glasses- processor, memory, and hard drive- like Google Glass, Apple doesn’t have to worry about where to put all that.

It can focus on on making glasses that look good, that people would actually want to wear.

Apple Could Pair AR Glasses With iPhones In 2020

They should add a flashlight as well so we can use both hands and have a flashlight that points directly at whatever we’re looking at. Having a flashlight in your pocket all the time now comes in handy, but one on your glasses would be an improvement.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.