Insight Bite: Apple set Sights on the Future of Virtual Reality with Akonia Acquisition

In a bid to expand their focus on augmented reality, Apple have acquired Akonia—a startup focused on making lenses for AR glasses. The deal is thought to have been signed in the first half of 2018, and was revealed publicly by Reuters on Thursday.

The Colorado-based firm Akonia Holographics are best known for developing holographic storage solutions, which use lasers to store computer-generated data in three dimensions. Recently however, they have been developing a technology called “Holomirror”, which is used to project full-colour images onto the transparent glass lenses of augmented-reality headsets:

“Our HoloMirrorTM technology suite employs our proprietary volume holographic media and know-how to uniquely enable thin, transparent smart glass lenses that display vibrant, full-color, wide field-of-view images.” says the description on the Akonia website.

CEO Tim Cook has long hinted at Apple’s ambitions on augmented reality, and this move will be confirmation to many that the company is planning to ship an AR headset, or other similar  device that would superimpose digital information on the real world.

Rumour has it that the company is already exploring several prototypes, including a powerful AR/VR headset, and a set of augmented reality smart glasses that leaked sources say could be launched in 2019 or 2020. However, such plans haven’t been confirmed by the tech giant, who declined to disclose any details of the deal or the motivations behind it:

“Apple buys smaller companies from time to time, and we generally don’t discuss our purpose or plans,” Apple said in a statement when asked for details about the acquisition.

Their actions however, speak loudly and clearly, and Akonia are not the first AR firm to be purchased by Apple. In November last year, the company purchased Vrvana, manufacturers of the Totem AR headset.

These acquisitions will help Apple contend with a number of rivals—including Amazon, Google, and Microsoft—who have all expressed interest in this growing industry. Naturally, competition is fierce, but with the right expertise behind them, Apple have the best possible chance to steer this nascent technology into the future.

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