This is what Apple's Tim Cook is saying about AR

Apple CEO Tim Cook says augmented reality (AR) will impact every sector and every industry — from enterprise to consumer, fashion, retail and beyond.

augmented reality, Apple, AR, ARKit, Tim Cook, iOS 11
Blair Hanley Frank

From the U.S. to India, the U.K. and Europe, Apple CEO Tim Cook has been touring the planet to share his thoughts around augmented reality (AR) and and Apple's AR platform, ARKit. Here are some of his thoughts:

How important is augmented reality technology?

"I think AR is big and profound," Cook said in August. He says the technology will prove to be as important as the App Store and will make the smartphone even more essential to people.

“Think back to 2008 when the App Store went live,” he told The Independent. “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.’”

Time moves forward, and today we use apps for a multiplicity of purposes. “AR is like that,” Cook said.

“This is huge because it’s the first time hundreds of millions of customers will be able to use AR for the first time. We’re bringing it to the mainstream,” Cook told Good Morning America.

How will AR technology be used?

At WWDC 2017, Cook pointed to the first-generation retail apps that he saw as changing the “whole experience of how you shop.”

"You can take that idea and begin to think this is something that stretches from enterprise to consumer. There's not a lot of things that do that,” he said.

Cook says (and everything I’m seeing in the fast-developing space confirms) we’ll see AR solutions for small business, consumers, gaming and enterprise users. AR will change shopping “entirely.” Cook doesn’t think “anything will be untouched,” he told The Independent.

Speaking to Vogue, Cook predicted big impacts on the fashion industry, too.

“I don’t think there is any sector or industry that will be untouched by AR,” he said. “If you think about a runway show in the fashion world, that’s great application of AR because some of these, you want to see the dress all the way around; you do not want to just see the front.”

(Burberry now offers some AR features in its iOS app.)

"This is one of those huge things that we'll look back at and marvel at the start of it,” Cook has said. “I think customers are going to see it in a variety of ways, and it feels great to get [AR] going at a level that can get all of the developers behind it."

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How Apple approaches AR technology

Apple’s approach to augmented reality has been to create the platform (“the heavy lifting”) that will enable developers to build their own great ideas. With 15 million developers already on the platform, Cook expects we will see some great ideas emerge.

The decision to put AR support inside iPhones and iPads was necessary partly because of the technology requirements and also to ensure Apple’s AR market launched with the scale to motivate the developer community.

The importance of scale

Apple’s high-end phones outsell those from rivals, in addition to which competitors can’t provide the marriage of hardware and software that enables things like ARKit.

“We want everybody to be able to use AR,” Cook has said. “We've taken the complexity that developers would normally have to do in their apps and made it simple for them to convert all of their apps to an AR experience.”

AR glasses? Don’t buy them yet

Cook doesn’t think the technology required to make AR glasses exists yet, citing challenges in field of view, display size and display quality. While it is likely some firms will try to introduce 3D glasses, Cook warns they will not deliver the kind of experience Apple, or “the vast majority of people,” will enjoy.

On being first with AR

“We don’t give rats about being first, we want to be best in creating people’s experiences,” Cook said. “Something that you would see out in the market any time soon would not be something that any of us would be satisfied with.”

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