Tim Cook: ‘AR will pervade our entire lives’

20 Jan 2020

Apple CEO Tim Cook. Image: Iain White/Fennell Photography

When asked about the next big thing in tech, Tim Cook shared his excitement about augmented reality with a shout-out for a Dublin company.

Today (20 January) in Dublin, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD, presented the Special Recognition Award to Apple CEO Tim Cook to recognise the company’s contribution to FDI in Ireland.

The inaugural award was devised by IDA Ireland and acknowledged Apple’s 40 years in Cork. The company is Cork’s largest employer with 6,000 people forming the international operation, including more than 20 people who have been working at Apple for more than 35 years.

An audience was gathered in the National Concert Hall for the event, which was followed by a keynote from Cook and a follow-up discussion chaired by IDA Ireland CEO Martin Shanahan.

‘I visited a development company called War Ducks in Dublin – 15 people and they’re staffing up and using AR for games’

Shanahan asked Cook about major developments in tech he expects in the next five to 10 years. “I’m excited about AR,” said the Big Tech CEO, citing augmented reality as an emerging tech space to watch. “My view is it’s the next big thing, and it will pervade our entire lives.”

One Irish company’s work in this space, in particular, caught Cook’s eye. “Yesterday, I visited a development company called War Ducks … in Dublin – 15 people and they’re staffing up and using AR for games. You can imagine, for games it’s incredible but even for our discussion here. You and I might be talking about an article and using AR we can pull it up, and can both be looking at the same thing at the same time.”

Cook also sees applications for AR helping with hands-on tasks. “You may be under the car changing the oil, and you’re not sure exactly how to do it. You can use AR,” he said.

Interestingly, the tech CEO sees benefits for AR and connecting people, more than other available technologies. “I think it’s something that doesn’t isolate people. We can use it to enhance our discussion, not substitute it for human connection, which I’ve always deeply worried about in some of the other technologies.”

Cook is also “extremely excited” about tech in healthcare realm. “I’m seeing that this intersection has not yet been explored very well. There’s not a lot of tech associated with the way people’s healthcare is done unless they get into very serious trouble.”

‘We can use it to enhance our discussion, not substitute it for human connection which I’ve always deeply worried about’

For Apple’s part, Cook continued, it has entered the everyday health space through the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch can monitor a user’s heart rate when in use and Cook said there are users discovering they have heart issues through this technology. He said the Apple Watch can even help identify atrial fibrillation, or AFib.

AFib is the most common form of arrhythmia, where the heart beats in a disorganised and irregular way. While it can have a range of indicators and potential complications, symptoms can sometimes go unnoticed until it’s too late.

“I think you can take that simple idea of having preventive things and find many more areas where technology intersects healthcare, and I think all of our lives would probably be better off for it,” said Cook.

Speaking as a citizen of the country with the world’s most expensive healthcare system, Cook also said the cost of healthcare can “fundamentally be taken down, probably in a dramatic way” with more everyday healthcare technologies such as this, but was tightlipped on Apple’s future developments in this space.

“Most of the money in healthcare goes to the cases that weren’t identified early enough. It will take some time but things that we are doing now – that I’m not going to talk about today – those give me a lot of cause for hope.”

With healthcare and AR clearly on Cook’s agenda for future developments, he also made reference to the emerging tech du jour while acknowledging its proliferation. “Of course I’m excited about AI too, but everyone talks about that one!” he joked.

With reporting from Ann O’Dea

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.