Apple CEO Tim Cook has spoken about his enthusiasm for Augmented Reality
iPhone 8 could be much more than a simple hardware upgrade, with the upcoming smartphone set to debut a number of new technologies.
One of these will reportedly be next-generation wireless charging, which will allow the iPhone to charge from a much greater distance than existing standards.
Apple is expected to pull-out all the stops for the next generation phone, which will mark the 10th anniversary of the iPhone when it purportedly launches in September 2017.
The Apple iPhone 8, which some sources believe will be marketed as the iPhone X, is rumoured to ship with a dual-curved OLED display, all-glass design, and no physical Home Button – a first for the device.
And now it appears that Augmented Reality (AR) could be a focus for the device – which will also sport the dual-camera set-up that first shipped on the iPhone 7 Plus.
Apple CEO Tim Cook this week reiterated the technology company’s interest in Augmented Reality, possibly hinting at a future integration in iPhone hardware.
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Mr Cook travelled to the UK to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow.
He also took time to meet with Prime Minister Theresa May, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, as well as a visit to Woodberry Down Community Primary School in Harringay, which uses Apple’s own Swift Playgrounds programming software on the iPad in its classrooms.
Speaking to The Independent, the 56-year-old technology CEO emphasised his interest in Augmented Reality – a technology which allows digital objects, text or prompts to be overlaid with the real-world.
Google Glass, Microsoft Hololens and Pokemon Go are probably the best known commercial uses of the technology.
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Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “I’m excited about Augmented Reality because unlike Virtual Reality which closes the world out, AR allows individuals to be present in the world but hopefully allows an improvement on what’s happening presently.
“Most people don’t want to lock themselves out from the world for a long period of time and today you can’t do that because you get sick from it.
“With AR you can, not be engrossed in something, but have it be a part of your world, of your conversation. That has resonance.
“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.
iPhone 7 Plus is the first Apple smartphone to ship with dual cameras
“I view AR like I view the silicon here in my iPhone, it’s not a product per se, it’s a core technology.
"But there are things to discover before that technology is good enough for the mainstream.
I regard it as a big idea like the smartphone. I think AR is that big, it’s huge
Tim Cook, Apple CEO
“I do think there can be a lot of things that really help people out in daily life, real-life things, that’s why I get so excited about it.”
The latest comments about Augmented Reality are nothing new, Tim Cook has been speaking about his passion for the technology for a long time now.
Last October, Mr Cook told a technology conference in Utah that “a significant portion of the population of developed countries, and eventually all countries, will have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day. It will become that much a part of you.”
“AR is going to take a while, because there are some really hard technology challenges there,” he added.
“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.”
Despite the obvious interest in the field, Apple has yet to ship a dedicated Augmented Reality product.
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Previous Apple patents mention dual-cameras gathering information to use for Augmented Reality
However, some have speculated that the dual-camera set-up on the iPhone 7 Plus, coupled with the sheer power of Apple’s latest processor, hints at its ambitions in the space.
A number of patents, originally filed by German AR startup Metaio (a company that Apple quietly acquired in 2015) list the ability to overlay information, thanks to the depth-sensing capabilities of a dual-camera set-up.
Apple currently uses that depth mapping ability to create its Portrait photographs, which artificially add a bokeh effect to the background, like those usually only achieved with a DSLR.
The latest comments from Tim Cook comes just a few weeks after the company’s quarterly earnings call.
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During the accompanying Q&A, the Apple CEO fuelled speculation about Apple’s product roadmap for the upcoming year – clearly, in no rush to extinguish the growing hype around the much-rumoured 10th anniversary iPhone.
“I think the smartphone is still in the early innings of the game,” Mr Cook told investors during the earnings call.
“I think there’s lots more to do. Every year, I think it becomes more important to people’s lives, there’s more things people are doing with it.”
CEO Tim Cook also highlighted home automation, offering a rare glimpse into his private life to demonstrate the potential of the feature.
“Now, when I say ‘Good Morning’ to Siri, my house lights come on and my coffee starts brewing.
“When I go to the living room to relax in the evening, I use Siri to adjust the lighting and turn on the fireplace,” he revealed.
“And when I leave the house, a simple tap of my iPhone turns the lights off, adjusts the thermostat down, and locks the doors.
“When I return to my house in the evening as I’m near my home, the house prepares itself for my arrival automatically by using a simple geofence.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook is in no rush to extinguish the growing hype around the iPhone 8
When pushed on what the next iPhone could offer customers – besides a simple form-factor refresh – the Apple CEO reiterated the draw of this feature, amongst a number of other features, like CarPlay.
Mr Cook said, “I talked about home automation, but I could have talked about Health or CarPlay. Enterprise use is growing. When I look at all of these things, we’ve got exciting things in the pipeline and I feel really good about it.”
Mr Cook is clearly keen to emphasis the power of Siri, following the slew of reports that Apple’s closet rival, Samsung, is set to unveil its own virtual assistant ahead of the launch of its next flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8.
According to the latest reports, the Samsung smart assistant, dubbed Bixby, will boast a number of AI features currently unavailable on rival Siri, including the ability to identify real-world objects with the phone’s camera.
Once it has identified whatever you’re pointing at, the Samsung Galaxy S8 will be able to direct you to online retailers where you can buy the item.
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However, Apple is believed to be working on a number of improvements to its own assistant, which will likely launch later this year.
However it’s unclear whether this next-generation Siri will be included in iOS 11, or as an exclusive feature for the upcoming iPhone, like the always-listening capability that debuted with the iPhone 6s back in 2015.
Aside from the redesigned iPhone 8 hardware, and iOS software features, Apple is also rumoured to be hard at work on a refresh to its tablet range.
The Cupertino-based firm is believed to have new iPads in the pipeline, which will share a number of design cues with the iPhone 8.
According to a report from reliable Japanese site Makotakara, the new iPad will squeeze a larger 10.9-inch high-resolution display into a tablet with the same footprint as the current-generation 9.7inch iPad. To make room for the bumper display, Apple is expected to shrink the bezels around the screen.
According to sources, Apple also hopes to remove the Home Button, leaving only a thick bezel at the top of the display for the in-built FaceTime camera.
The new iPad Pro models will be almost completely glass display, with tiny bezels
Further leaks and unearthed patents have revealed that Apple is also planning a second-generation Apple Pencil, which will use magnets to attach the pressure-sensitive stylus to the tablet when you travel.
Obviously, Tim Cook did not confirm any of these details during his Q&A at the quarterly earnings call, however, he did mention plans for future iPads.
Mr Cook reassured investors that he is still “very bullish on iPad” despite a slump in sales recorded during the latest quarterly results.
“We’ve got some exciting things coming on iPad,” he teased, adding “I still feel very optimistic about where we can take the product.”
Despite his optimism moving forward, Cook used the earnings call to reveal iPad sales have taken a major hit, down 19 per cent year-on-year.
Although having sold a little over 13 million iPads during Q1 2017, Apple has been unable to buck the trend of a widespread decline in tablet sales.
The company has bolstered its tablet line-up in recent years, with two iPad Pro sizes joining the existing iPad Air and iPad Mini range.