Apple CEO Tim Cook: Technology Doesn’t Exist to do AR Smart Glasses ‘In a Quality Way’

Apple CEO Tim Cook recently sat down for a wide ranging interview with The Independent alongside several app developers where he discussed augmented reality in its current incarnation on the iPhone and provided a bit of insight into Apple's plans for future devices that could potentially take advantage of augmented reality, like smart glasses.

As is typical, Cook refused to comment on products Apple has in development, but when questioned about the topic, he said the technology to create a pair of augmented reality smart glasses "in a quality way" does not exist today.
"But today I can tell you the technology itself doesn't exist to do that in a quality way. The display technology required, as well as putting enough stuff around your face - there's huge challenges with that.

"The field of view, the quality of the display itself, it's not there yet."
Cook went on to say that Apple will only ship a product that's the best, reiterating that the company doesn't care about being first to new technology. "We want to be the best and give people a great experience," he said. "But now anything you would see on the market any time soon would not be something any of us would be satisfied with. Nor do I think the vast majority of people would be satisfied."

Google Glass augmented reality glasses

Rumors have suggested Apple is working on a pair of augmented reality smart glasses and has experimented with multiple prototypes, but based on both Cook's statement today and past rumors, a wearable Apple-branded augmented reality product is still a ways off.

Recent information has suggested augmented reality smart glasses are at least a year away or longer, with Apple aiming to figure out the "most compelling application" for an AR headset.

Though the technology does not exist today in Cook's opinion, he did provide some hope for a future AR wearable from Apple. "Most technology challenges can be solved, but it's a matter of how long," he said.

The rest of Cook's interview, which can be read over at The Independent and is well worth checking out, focuses heavily on ARKit and augmented reality. As he has done many times in the past, Cook said AR is huge, will be used by everyone, and will take off much like the App Store or multi-touch functionality.

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Nokia Refocuses on Digital Health Products in VR Market Rethink

Nokia on Tuesday announced that it is halting the development of its $45,000 Ozo virtual reality camera, citing "slower than expected development of the VR market" as the reason behind the company's rethink.

The news comes at the expense of 310 jobs in the U.S., the U.K., and Finland – the home of Nokia – as the company optimizes its investments in virtual reality and targets faster growth in digital health products and services instead.

In digital media, the slower-than-expected development of the VR market means that Nokia Technologies plans to reduce investments and focus more on technology licensing opportunities. The unit aims to halt development of further versions of the OZO VR camera and hardware, while maintaining commitments to existing customers.
Nokia acquired French health tracking company Withings in 2016 for an estimated $192 million, signaling the company's long-term investment in the consumer digital health and the Internet of Things sector. Withings completed its rebrand to the Nokia label in June of this year and simultaneously launched two new connected health products under the Nokia brand.

Nokia announced the professional-grade Ozo camera back in 2015, when it cost $60,000 price tag. The 360-degree 3D camera is capable of live streaming, live monitoring and automatic stitching. Disney, UEFA, Sony Pictures and other media companies bought Ozo camera units, and Nokia later dropped the price to $45,000, but sales clearly didn't warrant continued development.

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Tag: Nokia

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Samsung Debuts $499 Windows Mixed Reality Headset

At an event held in San Francisco this morning, Samsung and Microsoft announced the debut of the HMD Odyssey, a headset designed to work with the Windows Mixed Reality platform.

Priced at $499, the headset offers high-resolution dual 3.5-inch AMOLED displays with a 110-degree field of view for what Samsung says is the "most immersive Windows Mixed Reality experience." With AMOLED technology, the headset offers more vibrant colors and deeper blacks for more lifelike images, and there are built-in AKG headphones for 360 degree spatial sound.


The HMD Odyssey is equipped with a Six Degrees of Freedom sensor for "intuitive and natural movements," while the headset itself features an adjustable control wheel for a snug fit on the head and the two motion controllers enable movement in the virtual world.


Windows Mixed Reality, despite the name, is essentially Microsoft's virtual reality platform. Microsoft has teamed up with several PC makers like Acer, Dell, HP, and Lenovo to create a range of "Mixed Reality" headsets that work with the platform. Mixed Reality mixes augmented and virtual reality experiences to blend the real world with the digital world, but Windows Mixed Reality is a full virtual reality experience at the current time.


While Apple has delved into and embraced augmented reality with the release of ARKit in iOS 11, the company is also rumored to be exploring virtual reality concepts. There have been rumors of work on both a virtual reality headset and augmented reality smart glasses, but it's not yet clear if those products will ever make it beyond the prototyping stage.

Apple in macOS High Sierra is planning to support eGPUs and VR content creation through Metal 2 and partnerships with Valve, Unity, and Unreal, but beyond that, ARKit is the closest thing the company has to the Windows Mixed Reality platform, and there is no comparable product to the Samsung headset.

Samsung's Odyssey Mixed Reality Headset is priced at $499, and is available for pre-order starting today ahead of a November 6 launch. A range of other Mixed Reality headsets are also available from Microsoft at prices starting at $329.

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Tags: Samsung, Microsoft

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Amazon Reportedly Working on Smart Glasses With Integrated Alexa AI

Amazon is actively developing a pair of smart glasses with Alexa virtual assistant built in, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.

Designed like a regular pair of spectacles, the device will enable Alexa to be invoked by the wearer at any time and at all places, the report said, citing people familiar with Amazon's plans.

The founder of Google Glass is said to be working on Amazon's Alexa smart glasses

The company is reportedly including a bone-conduction audio system in the specs so that the wearer can hear Alexa's voice without inserting headphones.

The founder of Google Glass, Babak Parviz, is said to have been working on the Alexa product since he was hired by Amazon in 2014. Earlier this year, Google re-introduced its Google Glass wearable headset after discontinuing production in 2016.

In addition, The Financial Times reports that Amazon is also working on a more conventional home security camera, and that one or both of these products may appear before the end of this year.

Previous reports have claimed that Amazon is working on a successor to its popular Echo connected smart speaker and plans to bring the device to market this year in time to compete with Apple's HomePod, which is set to launch this December.

According to rumors that first surfaced in 2016, Apple is also working on several different kinds of smart glasses, with the main application of bringing augmented reality experiences to the wearer.

Reports this year suggest Apple's glasses will connect wirelessly to the iPhone, much like the Apple Watch, and will display "images and other information to the wearer".

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Tags: Google Glass, Alexa

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Pokémon GO Creator’s Next Game Will Integrate Audio Cues into the AR Experience

Pokémon GO creators Niantic are looking at ways to incorporate audio into future AR game experiences, according to the company's chief technology officer.

Speaking on a panel discussing augmented reality at TechCrunch's Disrupt event, Niantic CTO Phil Keslin said that audio cues would mean players wouldn't have to awkwardly hold their phone up while interacting with games like GO.

"I can tell you from experience that people don't do this," he said, mimicking how people playing an AR game would hold their phones. "It's very unnatural. It makes them look like a total doofus if they're doing it for an extended period of time," he added.

"In Pokémon GO, the only time they really use it is to share their encounter with the Pokémon. To take that one picture, which is natural…. Everybody takes a picture, and then they're done. It's not walking around the world with the phone in front of their face," he said.
Considering alternative solutions, Keslin suggested audio could be integrated into AR experience. "Audio is different," he said. "You can hide that." Most people today walk around with their audio earbuds stuck in their ears all the time, he noted. "Nobody knows that they're being augmented then."

Keslin later explained that audio was something Niantic had toyed with when they were building Ingress, a location-based, augmented reality game considered a precursor to Pokémon GO.

Audio integration was considered in a variety of ways, according to the CTO, for example, suggesting to players which location they should visit, or having their phone call them with further clues when they reached a waypoint. Another possibility was combining audio with a phone's sensors, like an accelerometer, to know what a person was doing. "AR is not just visual," he added.

Asked if audio clues would ever come to Pokémon GO, Keslin told TechCrunch: "Maybe. Or maybe we'd use it in other games," he said, smiling. "We're not a one-game wonder."

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Tags: Pokémon GO, ARKit

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Apple Experimenting With Several Augmented Reality Glasses Prototypes

Apple is working on "several different kinds" of wearable augmented reality prototypes as it tries to figure out the "most compelling application" for an AR headset, reports Financial Times.

Citing sources with knowledge of Apple's plans, Financial Times says at least one group within Apple is pushing for a pair of glasses that feature 3D camera but no screens, making the iPhone the main display, similar to Snap's Spectacles, but no final design decisions have been made.

Snap's camera-equipped screen-free Spectacles

Rumors of Apple's work on AR smart glasses first surfaced in 2016, and previous rumors have suggested the glasses will connect wirelessly to the iPhone, much like the Apple Watch, and will display "images and other information to the wearer."

While Robert Scoble suggested Apple could launch the smart glasses this year through a partnership with Carl Zeiss, most rumors (like today's) suggest Apple is still in a prototyping phase and that a launch is still a ways off.

Earlier this year, Financial Times said Apple was "stepping up" development on an augmented reality wearable, but a potential launch is at least a year away or longer. Bloomberg has predicted a similar timeline, suggesting Apple is perhaps aiming to launch a product in 2018.

As Apple works on AR smart glasses, the company is preparing to make its first major move into augmented reality with the launch of iOS 11 and ARKit, a set of APIs designed to allow developers to build powerful augmented reality experiences into apps and games. When ARKit launches, the iPhone and the iPad will become the largest augmented reality platform in the world given the large number of devices already out in the wild.

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Over the course of the past several months, Apple CEO Tim Cook has talked about Apple's work on augmented reality several times. Just this past week, he called it "big and profound" and said he "could not be more excited" about AR and what developers are creating with ARKit.

"This is one of those huge things that we'll look back and marvel at the start of it," he said.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook: ‘I Think Augmented Reality is Big and Profound’

During today's earnings call covering the third fiscal quarter of 2017, Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked about ARKit and how he foresees developers using the service when it first launches. In response, Cook once again reiterated his excitement about augmented reality, and in short, said he expects to see a wide variety of applications shortly after iOS 11 becomes available this fall.

Cook pointed towards many of the demos that we're already seeing, which have ranged from games and entertainment to more practical applications like furniture placement and measurement.

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"I could not be more excited about AR and what we're seeing with ARKit," said Cook. "What categories? What's on the web in terms of what people are doing? It's all over the place, from entertainment to gaming." He went on to say that he expects to see small business solutions, consumer solutions, and enterprise solutions, though he mentioned enterprise "takes a little longer to get going sometimes."

"I think AR is big and profound," he went on to say. "This is one of those huge things that we'll look back at and marvel at the start of it. I think customers are going to see it in a variety of ways and it feels great to get [AR] going at a level that can get all of the developers behind it."

A recreation of A-ha's "Take On Me" made using ARKit

In an interview with CNBC after the earnings call, Cook said he believes the iPhone will become even more essential than it already is once augmented reality features are widely available.
"The smart phone is becoming even more important to people because it's going across so much of your life and you can tell by some of the things we did at WWDC that that will only continue," Cook told CNBC's Josh Lipton. "And with things like AR… I think it becomes even more essential than it currently is. I know it's hard to believe, but I think that's the case."
When iOS 11 launches in the fall, it's set to become the largest AR platform in the world thanks to the myriad iPhones and iPads that are in the hands of customers. Developers are already building a huge range of ARKit-based apps and games, which will also start launching this fall.

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AR Startup Blippar Showcases ‘Halos’ Facial Recognition Feature in its Mobile App

Augmented reality startup Blippar today announced a new social feature for its image recognition app that lets users build an AR profile using facial recognition technology.

Called "Halos", the feature offers users the ability to scan their face into the app and fill various bubbles around their head with personal details, such as their latest tweets, favorite songs on Spotify, YouTube videos, and animated emoji.


Once the facial profile is uploaded, anyone who "blips" the user – or scans their face with the app – sees the information as a halo of bubbles suspended in mid-air. The feature builds on the app's Public Figure Facial Recognition, introduced last December, which lets users scan 370,000 famous faces to learn interesting facts about them.

The Blippar app generally relies on users aiming their phone camera at everyday objects, products or images and "blipping" them to unlock helpful information, interact with brands, play videos, games, music, and more.

Blippar said in a blog post that the mobile app is mainly its way of showcasing technologies for other companies interested in adopting their visual search engine APIs – or in this case, facial recognition tech, which the company claims has more than 99.6 percent accuracy.
"Our faces are our most unique and expressive form of communication. Through AR Face Profiles we are making the face accessible in digital format for the first time, providing an innovative and dynamic way of expressing ourselves and discovering more about those around you. The technology lends itself to many other forms of implementation, and we are delighted to be able to share our APIs and technology with other companies, who like us, are committed to spurring on innovation in their own industries."
Apple has previously snapped up smaller companies specializing in facial recognition and augmented reality technology – two tentpole features expected in the so-called "iPhone 8" due to launch later this year.

In February the tech giant bought Israeli firm RealFace, whose proprietary IP could be used to power facial authentication in the upcoming phone, with Apple's ARKit developer platform likely to be used to showcase the handset's next-generation augmented reality capabilities.

Blippar is a free download for iPhone available on the App Store. [Direct Link]

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Tags: augmented reality, Blippar

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Apple Users’ Mixed Reality Future Teased in Latest ARKit Demo

Developers have wasted no time testing the limits of Apple's new ARKit platform, as each passing week serves up tantalizing previews of what's possible on an iPhone or iPad now that developers can quickly and easily build augmented reality experiences into their apps.

The latest demo to raise the bar comes courtesy of New York-based virtual reality developer Normal VR and offers a sneak peek at what's potentially in store for anyone with an iOS device, an iMac, and a VR headset.


The video clip, recorded on a 10-inch iPad Pro, shows the company using ARKit and the Unity game engine to capture the physical movements of a VR artist and project her virtual painting onto the real world via the mimicking actions of a digital avatar. The interaction also appears to be two-way, with scaling and repositioning functions controlled by the external viewer using iPad gestures.

It's unknown whether the HTC Vive is connected to a Mac or linked to some other supporting machine, but either way the potential uses for such a setup could be pretty far-reaching.

We already know Apple's latest top-of-the-line iMacs will include VR headset support out of the box once High Sierra gets its final release. Steam game platform creator Valve has also developed a version of its SteamVR software development kit for Mac, offering Apple users the same 360-degree, room-scale tracking as the Windows and Linux variants, with the added bonus of Oculus Rift support.

If ARKit-wielding developers can create apps that allow VR content to be viewed and interacted with outside of a headset, cross-platform Apple users could be looking at an exciting future of shared mixed reality experiences.

The first apps powered by ARKit are set to launch on the new-look App Store alongside iOS 11 this fall.

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Tag: ARKit

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Three Apple Developers Join WebVR Community Group

Three Apple developers yesterday joined an open community initiative that aims to make virtual reality content viewable regardless of device or browser. As reported by UploadVR, the staff added their names to the WebVR Community Group members list on Wednesday, in what looks like a continuation of the company's recent major push into VR.

Apple's senior front-end developer Brandel Zachernuk, multimedia and software standards representative David Singer, and WebGL spec editor Dean Jackson now appear alongside the names of developers from various other major internet companies like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.


WebVR's mission is to enable web users to enjoy online VR experiences whatever hardware or software platform they use, suggesting Apple's involvement will be focused on Safari compatibility. Working on that assumption, Apple's participation means every major web browser now has representation in WebVR development, including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.

Google's Brandon Jones, who is chair of the WebVR Community Group, was first to notice Apple's appearance in the member list, which includes 147 participants at the time of writing. However, Jones offered the caveat that "group participation does not necessarily imply a commitment to implement".

Last month at the Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple revealed its first big push into the augmented reality and virtual reality spaces, with a new ARKit developer framework and high-performance iMacs with native support for VR content creation. Native VR support in macOS High Sierra also opens up the possibility for Mac owners to hook up VR headsets to their computer for the first time.

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