Akonia Holographics, a startup that manufactures super-thin and transparent lenses for augmented reality (AR) smart glasses, has been quietly acquired by Apple. The news of the acquisition has been confirmed by the tech giant last Wednesday.
In a statement, the iPhone maker disclosed: “Apple buys smaller companies from time to time, and we generally don’t discuss our purpose or plans.”
The news comes as a sign that Apple may soon move deeper into the market of augmented reality. AR is a technology which has the ability to superimpose digital information and images on the real world.
To date, the other tech companies that are offering AR glasses include Microsoft’s Hololens and Magic Leap’s Magic Leap One which feature darker tinted lenses that are usually only designed for indoor-use by developers. They come at a high price point.
Akonia was founded in 2012 by a group of holography scientists. The company is based in Colorado. The US startup said that its technology allows for “thin, transparent smart glass lenses that display vibrant, full-colour, wide field-of-view images.” The website of the firm revealed that in 2011, it had raised $11.6 million (£8.9 million) in seed funding from some undisclosed investors. Originally, it had focused on holographic data storage prior to shifting its efforts to creating displays for augmented reality glasses. according to its website, the company has a portfolio of over 200 patents that are related to holographic systems and materials.
The price ad date of the acquisition deal is still undisclosed. However, one executive in the augmented reality industry said that the team of Akonia had become “very quiet” over the last six months. This implies that the deal may have occurred in the first half of the year.
Currently, Apple offers AR experiences through the iPad and iPhone. They are visible on mobile screens through mobile games and apps that use the camera of the phone. These apps include Pokemon Go and the Ikea’s store app.
In 2017, some reports revealed that Apple had started the development of AR glasses that could be released as soon as 2020.