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Tim Cook Thinks Augmented Reality Could Be as Big As the iPhone

February 11, 2017, 8:53 PM UTC

In a new interview in The Independent, Apple CEO Tim Cook offers a ringing endorsement of augmented reality—technology that layers digital information onto a user’s view of the real world.

Cook argues that augmented reality is preferable to virtual reality for many applications, because “most people don’t want to lock themselves out from the world . . . With AR you can, not be engrossed in something, but have it be a part of your world, of your conversation. That has resonance.”

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Cook compares the potential impact of AR to that of the iPhone, which he describes as a product “for everyone.” “I think AR is that big,” he continues, “It’s huge.”

As The Verge highlights, Cook isn’t just sharing his personal enthusiasm here. Apple has been hiring AR and VR veterans, and Cook’s comments could be read as a signal of the company’s plans to develop AR products.

However, Cook also calls for patience, saying that there are still “things to discover before [AR] is good enough for the mainstream.” That may suggest some lessons learned from Apple’s nascent work in the field. It certainly aligns with the troubles of startup Magic Leap, a standard-bearer for AR that has nonetheless grappled with inflated expectations and technological shortfalls, including an underwhelming leaked photo of a prototype this week.

Apple and its shareholders would certainly love to see augmented reality lead it to another iPhone-scale success. The performance of the Apple Watch has so far been middling, the company recently retrenched its autonomous driving ambitions, and the iPhone itself is getting squeezed in a crowded smartphone market.