Apple is now officially joining the AR race. The Silicon Valley giant has finalized the acquisition of Akonia Holographics, a promising Augmented Reality lenses startup. This is a clear signal that Apple is working on its own version of AR glasses or headset.
Not the case if one sticks to statements. Apple was quick to play down any potential (reasonable, certain) AR implications. Their latest statement reads that there’s nothing to read into the purchase; that ‘Apple buys smaller companies from time to time’, without much tendency to ‘discuss our purpose or plans’. Akonia has yet to make an announcement. The company has kept it unusually quiet for the past six months, indicating that the takeover plans had been perhaps cooking all along.
True enough, Apple does boast of a steady acquisition and integration of smaller businesses. We don’t hear much about what exactly they do in the vast Apple conglomerate. But then a product appears, and we see that the iPhone X sports a similar 3D sensor for what PrimeSense, another Apple purchase, is famous for. It is reasonable to assume that the latest Akonia addition might play a pivotal role in a future Apple AR glasses.
The new family member has all the bearings of an Apple’s signature acquisition. Colorado-based Akonia Holographics is a relatively new startup that specializes in a single, specific field. These were holograms at first, data storage, but then the company shifted towards a more promising AR lenses space. Today Akonia boasts of over 200 holography-related patents. Their prime product HoloMirror is, according to their site, an attempt to ‘finally enable lightweight, high-FOV and low cost consumer AR head-worn displays’. Akonia’s consideration for pocket-friendly AR technology is perhaps what lured Apple in, hoping to create a mass-produced AR item. If the rumors of big-time Apple glasses are true, then it’s hardly a hunch that Akonia’s expertise will be crucial in the project.
‘A big idea, like the smartphone‘- Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is on record saying. ‘I think AR is that big’. Though Apple hasn’t come out (yet) with anything tangible regarding AR glasses, this ‘big idea’ found its expression in iPhones and iPads of today. Scaling and locking virtual objects is possible on new Apple platforms, and various interactive games provide iOS users with genuine AR experience. Admittedly, no one’s fired up by these instantiations of Augmented Reality, but it is possible that these are Apple’s way of learning and testing the ropes.
Like all big industry heavyweights, Apple has dabbled into what’s essentially the next big thing in the world of technology. The market for Augmented Reality tools is enormous and counting. As far as the market revenue goes, it is one of the fastest growing businesses overall.
‘This is one of those huge things (AR) that we’ll look back at and marvel on the start of it’. Smartphone devices to drones, AR is slowly spreading out into dominant technological spheres. The Cook’s words of yesteryear might be indicative of what we’re witnessing with Akonia overtake. And that’s perhaps the first fairly-priced AR glasses designed for mass consumption.