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Is Apple’s move for Vrvana a green light for an augmented reality boom?

The acquisition of Vrvana is an encouraging sign that Apple is serious about the prospect of rolling out augmented reality (AR) headsets.

The deal, reported by TechCrunch, has Apple buying the Canadian company Vrvana for about $30 million. Vrvana is the maker of the Totem headset, which proved very popular with reviewers but never got to the point of shipping. It is believed that Vrvana’s staff will be joining its new owners in California, presumably to continue working on the product with the support of the significant resources of Apple.

Apple is widely expected to roll out AR headsets as soon as 2020. Apple’s AR device won’t require a smartphone to be its engine and interface, but instead have its own display. This means the AR headset needs to have its own operating system and run on a brand new chip, making the 2020 rollout a very aggressive timeline that Apple would have to devote serious resources to. Apple has already started designing the AR chip in-house, creating a system-on-a-package similar to the highly efficient component used in the Apple Watch.

If Apple CEO Tim Cook is right, AR could become the heir to the iPhone. This is because AR is more compatible with daily life than virtual reality, which is a lot more isolating. “We’re already seeing things that will transform the way you work, play, connect and learn,” Cook told Bloomberg. “Put simply, we believe AR is going to change the way we use technology forever.”

Apple isn’t the only company working on AR – Google is already working on a business tool, and a number of smaller players are also dabbling in the space. If this turns out to be the next new thing in the way that Cook predicts, we expect to see a great amount of deal activity in the years to come.

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