Apple acquires augmented reality focused startup for undisclosed amount

Although no date and price information is available for the acquisition, as per an industry executive in the augmented reality industry, the acquisition may have taken place in the first half of 2018.

In a development that clearly shows Apple Inc’s plans for the augmented reality market, Cupertino has acquired Colorado-based Akonia Holographics – a startup focused on making lenses for augmented reality glasses.

The deal underscores Apple’s ambitions to produce a wearable device that would superimpose digital information on the real world.

“Apple buys smaller companies from time to time, and we generally don’t discuss our purpose or plans,” said Apple in a statement.

Akonia could not immediately be reached for comment. According to its website, the company, founded in 2012, by a group of holography scientists had originally focused on holographic data storage but later shifted its efforts at creating displays for augmented reality (AR) glasses.

In the AR world, digital information is overlaid in realtime on real world objects, much like in the popular game Pokemon Go. While smartphones use their camera systems to display this information on the phone’s screen, tech companies are racing to create glasses that will display the info on transparent lenses.

According to Akonia, its display technology allows for “thin, transparent smart glass lenses that display vibrant, full-color, wide field-of-view images.”

According to its website, Akonia has a portfolio of more than 200 patents related to holographic systems and materials.

In 2012, Akonia had raised $11.6 million in seed funding and was seeking additional funding at that time. It is unclear as to whether it received additional funding and if so, who the investors were.

The price paid by Apple to acquire Akonia as well as the date of acquisition could not be learned. According to one executive in the augmented reality industry, Akonia’s team had become “very quiet” in the past six months, implying that the deal may have happened in the first half of 2018.

The acquisition of Akonia is the first clear indication of how Apple might approach the daunting challenges in producing crystal clear optical displays thin and light enough to fit into glasses similar to everyday frames with images bright enough for outdoor use and suited to mass manufacturing at a relatively low price.

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