Apple’s Tim Cook Thinks Augmented Reality, Not Virtual Reality, Is The Next Great Technology Frontier

There have been many great technology duels throughout different eras. The 8-track vs. cassette. Betamax vs. VHS. The printed page vs. a life of serfdom….all epic battles that were waged on the vanguard of a rapidly-changing technological landscape, and according to some experts, all battles that will be but a footnote to a footnote when compared to the oncoming Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality wars that will destroy us all.

That’s just what Tim Cook believes, in a manner of speaking. Appearing for an incredibly rare interview at Senator Orrin Hatch’s Utah Tech Tour in Salt Lake City over the weekend, the longtime Apple CEO laid out the realities of the VR vs. AR War To End Us All™, and his prediction as to which technology would emerge the winner didn’t exactly fall in line with the current consensus.

“AR I think is going to become really big,” said Cook. “VR, I think, is not gonna be that big, compared to AR … How long will it take? AR gonna take a little while, because there’s some really hard technology challenges there. But it will happen. It will happen in a big way. And we will wonder, when it does [happen], how we lived without it. Kind of how we wonder how we lived without our [smartphones] today.”

And why does Cook feel this way? Well, it all boils down to a relatively simple understanding of social psychology – mainly, that humans don’t like to be confined in order to enjoy a unique experience.

“In terms of it becoming a mass adoption, say everyone [in this room] would have an AR experience,” continued Cook. “The reality is it has to be something that everybody in [this room] views as an acceptable thing. But few people in here are going to think it’s acceptable to be tethered to a computer walking in here and sitting down. And few people in here are going to view that it’s acceptable to be enclosed in something, because we’re all social people at heart.”

While Cook was quick to reiterate that it would be some time before Apple released an AR product, he has previously stated his interests in testing out such a technology. During Apple’s quarterly earnings call this summer, Cook said that the company was “high on AR for the long run” and would continue investing in it, as they did back in 2013 when they first purchased a series of patents based around the technology. With games like Pokemon Go! already making use of augmented reality, however, the timeline for the first fully integrated AR phone may have just received a shot in the arm, so to speak.

Whichever direction Apple does decide to take let’s hope they have the common sense to install a headphone jack in it, for f*cks sake.