Although Apple CEO Tim Cook believes that virtual reality is an exciting technology, he’s not quite as fond of it as he is of augmented reality. It’s not because of headset availability, resolution, or price, but because with augmented reality, two people can enjoy the same experience in the same room without isolating themselves from one another.
“There’s virtual reality and there’s augmented reality — both of these are incredibly interesting,” he said during an interview with Good Morning America, as part of his New York tour (via MacRumors).
“But my own view is that augmented reality is the larger of the two, probably by far, because this gives the capability for both of us to sit and be very present, talking to each other, but also have other things for both of us to see. Maybe it’s something we’re talking about, maybe it’s someone else here who’s not present but who can be made to appear to be present.”
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He has a point. Although there are plenty of multiplayer experiences in virtual reality that you can experience with a friend in the same room, you do need two headsets, two PCs, and potentially two tracking solutions too. While augmented reality does require two headsets to offer the same experience, there are far fewer hardware requirements and you are very much looking at the same world.
Augmented reality also has more of a tie-in to the real world, since that is what makes up the majority of what is seen from your viewpoint. That seems to be something else Cook appreciates, since it’s easier to involve people who are not wearing a headset at the time.
Comparably, someone not wearing a VR headset cannot even be seen by the wearer, let along interact with the VR content being shown.
This love for augmented reality would suggest that if Apple does go down a reality-bending route, it will be an augmented one rather than a virtual one.
Cook also addressed other points on other technologies in his interview, stating that the lack of an iPhone 7 headphone jack meant that there was space for a larger battery and stereo speakers. He also said that the wireless AirPod earphones Apple sells to go along with the new iPhone, rarely (if ever) fall out because they lack the pulling weight of the wires.