Tim Cook teased that Apple’s working on an augmented reality, or AR, product in an interview with state-run outlet China Daily, telling AR fans to “stay tuned and you will see what we have to offer.” It reads as a direct hint that the company is working on some sort of headset, which has been rumored for years — unless, of course, he thinks people will actually be excited about using ARKit apps on their phones.
In the clip, brought to our attention by 9to5Mac, the interviewer asks Cook what he thinks the key factors are for an AR product to be successful. Cook responds by saying that he “couldn’t be more excited” about AR, despite it being “in the very early innings” of its evolution.
Cook has talked about AR dozens of times during his tenure as Apple CEO and has gone as far as to say that he’s the tech’s “number one” fan. He also agreed that AR is a “critically important part of Apple’s future,” and when the company announced its AR API, Craig Federighi said the tech was a “profound” change. But while those comments made it obvious that Apple’s working in the space, they weren’t promises that Apple would deliver an AR device.
Rumors have been swirling for years that Apple’s working on an AR headset or even a combination augmented / virtual reality headset, and from everything we’ve gathered in that time, it’s had a turbulent design process. Currently, the device is thought to be a self-contained unit, with the computer powering the headset built-in. Analysis Ming-Chi Kuo has said that the headset’s chip will be as powerful as the ones that power Macs.
Recent reports make it seem like the headset is almost ready. Work on its operating system, called Reality OS, has ramped up, according to Bloomberg, and the board of directors got to try out the hardware last month.
Despite that, Cook’s comment isn’t necessarily proof-positive that Apple’s headset is just around the corner. In March, Apple explicitly said an Apple Silicon Mac Pro announcement was coming. Many people, myself included, were sure that meant we’d see it at WWDC in June. But the keynote came and went without Apple showing off its top-end machine. What I’m saying is that even though Apple seems to be opening up a bit about what products it has in the hopper, it’s certainly still keeping us guessing.