Apple CEO Tim Cook optimistic about augmented reality technology, admitting Apple has major AR/VR plans

In an exclusive media interview published Wednesday, June 23, Apple CEO Tim Cook for the first time almost explicitly admitted that Apple is working on an augmented reality (AR) device.

In the interview, Cook was asked, “What do you think are the key factors for AR to succeed in the consumer market? He replied, “As you probably know, I’m very optimistic about the potential of AR. The key for any technology, including AR, is to put people first.” This echoes his earlier comments about how important AR really is to Apple.

Cook then went on to discuss Apple’s current work in AR, which is focused on developing AR apps for iPhone and iPad, adding, “But I think we’re still in the very early stages of developing this technology. I’m very excited about the possibilities we see in this area, so stay tuned and you’ll see what we have to offer.”

AR, or “mixed reality” (MR), refers to a technology in which computer-generated images are superimposed over a real-world view. It is very different from virtual reality (VR), which allows viewers to be fully immersed in a computer-generated world.

This is the first time Cook has admitted with any degree of clarity that Apple has major AR/VR plans. While current apps are useful for things like mapping rooms or seeing if new furniture will fit, Apple is likely working on libraries and tools for developers to use in apps like headsets.

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During the brief conversation, Cook pointed to the number of apps in the Apple App Store that have been developed using ARkit. He said, “We have 14,000 ARkit apps in the App Store, delivering AR experiences to millions of consumers around the world.”

Rumors have persisted for years that Apple is working on an AR headset or even a combination of AR and VR. During his tenure as Apple CEO, Cook has spoken about AR technology several times, even saying he is the “biggest” fan of the technology. He also believes AR is “an important part of Apple’s future.”

In May of this year, it was reported that Apple had presented its AR/VR headset prototype to the board and that the company planned to launch it as early as the end of this year, but it could be delayed until next year. Other sources familiar with the matter speculate that Apple plans to start selling the device in 2023.

Apple hopes to catch up with several other major tech companies in the AR/VR space, most notably Facebook parent Meta, which changed its name last year to signal that it is focused on immersing users in a virtual world known as the “Metaverse.” Microsoft also launched its Hololens AR glasses in 2016.