Apple buys startup that builds AR headset displays

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Apple glasses
Apple AR glasses just became more likely.
Photo: Martin Hajek

Apple just dropped a big clue that it’s planning to make a pair of augmented reality glasses with its latest acquisition.

The company confirmed this week that it purchased a Colorado-based startup called Akonia that’s focused on making lenses for wearable headset displays and it could help Apple create thin, transparent smart glass lenses with vibrant full colors.

Akonia’s team has been very quiet over the last six months, according to Reuters which broke the news of the acquisition. While Apple didn’t confirm the exact date of the acquisition, it probably happened during the first half of 2018. Apple issued its standard statement it usually uses to confirm when it buys a company.

“Apple buys smaller companies from time to time, and we generally don’t discuss our purpose or plans,” the iPhone-maker told Reuters.

Apple’s Push Into AR

Over 100 engineers at Apple are supposedly being tasked with exploring both augmented reality and virtual reality headsets. Tim Cook has told investors that he views AR as the most promising technology. The company is already laying the foundation for such a product with its ARKit platform.

Akonia was founded in 2012 and originally pursued advances in holographic data storage before pivoting to augmented reality headsets. The company has amassed a portfolio of over 200 patents related to holographic systems and materials.

Details on how much Apple paid for the company weren’t revealed. The company raised $11.6 million in 2012 and was looking for more funding before Apple purchased it. Analysts don’t expect Apple’s AR glasses to be released until sometime after 2020, so it could be a while before we see how Akonia’s tech gets integrated into Apple’s products.