Apple Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook thinks augmented reality will be bigger than virtual reality. Andrew Burton/Getty Images

With rumours of Apple making its own car shunted to the back burner, attention has moved once again to boss Tim Cook's growing love of augmented reality.

The Apple chief executive's latest thoughts on augmented reality (AR) focus on how it blends real and virtual worlds, rather than shutting the former off completely, as virtual reality (VR) does.

"There's no substitute for human contact," Cook told Buzzfeed News, adding: "And so you want the technology to encourage that...Augmented reality will take some time to get right, but I do think that it's profound. We might...have a more productive conversation, if both of us have an AR experience standing here...and so I think that things like these are better when they're incorporated without becoming a barrier to our talking."

Cook sees AR's ability to "amplify" face-to-face conversations rather than be "a barrier" like VR.

His most recent thoughts echo comments made in July, when he said Apple has been and will continue to invest "a lot" in augmented reality. "We are high on AR for the long run," Cook said. "We think there's great things for customers and a great commercial opportunity. So we're investing."

Virtual reality is the more popular for now, with the likes of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive at the high-end sold alongside Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR at the sub-£100 level. But Cook expects to see AR overtake because of its ability to be more socially engaging than VR, which completely covers the user's eyes with an alternate reality.

Augmented reality systems, such as the Hololens partially cover the wearer's eyes, letting them see the real world around them but also elements that are computer generated. A plumber, for example, could see the pipe he is fixing in reality, alongside instructions projected virtually onto a nearby wall.

In January it was reported by the Financial Times that the iPhone maker has assembled "a large team of experts in virtual reality and augmented reality and built prototype headsets that could one day rival Facebook's Oculus Rift or Microsoft's Hololens." The secret unit is claimed to include "hundreds of staffers" who have joined Apple through poaching and buying up relevant AR and VR startups.