Nobody outside of Apple knows what its next big product is.
But Apple CEO Tim Cook continues to drop hints that the company is investing and sees huge potential in augmented reality.
That’s what techies call the technology that integrates computer graphics and the internet with the real world to let you see virtual objects in real environments. The end game of this technology is a pair of smart glasses, although current applications like Pokémon Go mostly use smartphones.
Cook compared AR to the smartphone in an interview with The Independent’s David Phelan published on Friday:
“I regard it as a big idea like the smartphone. The smartphone is for everyone. We don’t have to think the iPhone is about a certain demographic, or country or vertical market; it’s for everyone. I think AR is that big. It’s huge. I get excited because of the things that could be done that could improve a lot of lives and be entertaining.”
But Cook also threw cold water on the idea that Apple is preparing a specific AR product like the smart glasses that have been recently rumored.
“I view AR like I view the silicon here in my iPhone,” he said. “It’s not a product per se – it’s a core technology.”
This could mean that Apple would include AR technology in some of its apps, such as the camera app, and its underlying technology. Apple has purchased several AR startups in the past few years.
“This is something you know it’s coming,” Loup Ventures founder Gene Munster previously told Business Insider. “The only other times they’ve talked like this is before the iPhone came out, they started to indicate they could do something in the phone market. Before the Apple Watch came out they talked about wearables and the wrist being a better option.”
It’s not the first time Cook has spoken at length about the potential he sees in AR. At an appearance in October, he laid out why he thinks is a superior bet to other immersive technologies like virtual reality, and said a “significant portion” of people around the world would “have AR experiences every day.”
“AR is going to take a while because there are some really hard technology challenges there,” Cook said in October. “But it will happen, it will happen in a big way, and we will wonder when it does, how we ever lived without it. Like we wonder how we lived without our phone today.”