Apple’s boss is evangelizing AR and VR ahead of the rumored headset reveal

Even though he didn’t name-drop Apple’s rumored Reality headset, Cook has revealed his enthusiasm for a mix of AR and VR in a lengthy GQ interview.

Rendering showing an Apple headset with the Apple logo on the external display
Tim Cook is selling the headset ahead of time | Image: Ahmed Chenni/
  • What’s happening? Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook is on the cover of GQ’s Global Creativity Awards 2023 issue, and he’s got some pretty surprising things to say about augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies.
  • Why care? Apple’s Reality-branded AR/VR headset could be revealed at WWDC this June, and Cook just further stoked expectations ahead of the big reveal.
  • What to do? Read the whole interview over at GQ.

Apple headset and Tim Cook’s thoughts on AR and VR

The timing of this interview is more telling than its contents, arriving hot on the heels of recent reports by The Information, Bloomberg and the Financial Times mentioning rare dissent among some of the executives who apparently fear the company is rushing the headset to the market without a clearly defined purpose.

Apple has dispatched none other than its chief executive to sit down with GQ and discuss AR and VR two months before the headset’s supposed WWDC reveal.

Cook is still enthusiastic about AR:

If you think about the technology itself with augmented reality, just to take one side of the AR/VR piece, the idea that you could overlay the physical world with things from the digital world could greatly enhance people’s communication, people’s connection.

And this:

It could empower people to achieve things they couldn’t achieve before. We might be able to collaborate on something much easier if we were sitting here brainstorming about it and all of a sudden we could pull up something digitally and both see it and begin to collaborate on it and create with it.

And this:

And so it’s the idea that there is this environment that may be even better than just the real world—to overlay the virtual world on top of it might be an even better world. And so this is exciting. If it could accelerate creativity, if it could just help you do things that you do all day long and you didn’t really think about doing them in a different way.

But didn’t Cook trash AR products like Google Glass before? “We always thought that glasses were not a smart move,” he previously told The New Yorker’s Ian Parker. Was he short-sighted then, or has he changed his mind?

My thinking always evolves. Steve taught me well: never to get married to your convictions of yesterday. To always, if presented with something new that says you were wrong, admit it and go forward instead of continuing to hunker down and say why you’re right.

On people being skeptical whenever Apple is about to enter a new market:

If you do something that’s on the edge, it will always have skeptics. Can we make a significant contribution, in some kind of way, something that other people are not doing? Can we own the primary technology? I’m not interested in putting together pieces of somebody else’s stuff. Because we want to control the primary technology. Because we know that’s how you innovate.

At no point during the interview did Cook confirm or deny the existence of the rumored headset. Of course, it’s currently one of the worst-kept secrets in Silicon Valley that Apple will reveal a sophisticated headset that’s a mix of AR and VR.

Selling us the headset ahead of time

Reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently said that mass production of the headset was delayed due to hardware challenges, ecosystem problems, the economic downturn and other factors. However, in the latest edition of his Power On newsletter, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman stated that Apple is still going to announce the product at WWDC, which runs June 5-6 this year.

“Apple Inc. has chosen June 5, 2023, as one of the most important days in its history. That’s the date it’s planning to debut its first mixed-reality headset, which it sees as the beginning of a post-iPhone era,” he wrote.

Will the headset be unveiled at WWDC after all?

Invite graphics for Apple's WWDC 2023 event
One way to tease the headset | Image: Apple

A WWDC unveiling makes sense as it’ll permit Apple to showcase its new “xR” software platform that should power the headset and a software development kit for developers to create apps before the hardware launch.

The Apple Newsroom announcement promises a “special all-day event” at the Apple Park campus. Perhaps most tellingly, Susan Prescott, head of developer relations, called this year’s WWDC Apple’s “biggest and most exciting yet.”

Moreover, the official press release quoted Prescott as saying that the Cupertino tech giant “can’t wait” to host “this very special event.”