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