Apple has acquired a small startup focused on making lenses for augmented reality glasses, fueling speculation that the US tech giant could be stepping up efforts to roll out an AR headset.
Terms of the deal are not known, but the company confirmed the purchase of Longmont, Colorado-based Akonia Holographics, Reuters reports.
“Apple buys smaller companies from time to time, and we generally don’t discuss our purpose or plans,” the iPhone maker said in a statement.
Akonia was founded in 2012 by a group of holography scientists and had originally focused on holographic data storage before shifting its efforts to creating displays for augmented reality (AR) glasses.
In augmented reality, digital information is overlaid on the real world as in the popular game Pokemon Go.
Mobile phones use their camera system to do this on the phone’s screen, but major technology firms are racing to create glasses that will show digital information on transparent lenses, Reuters noted.
Akonia says its display technology allows for “thin, transparent smart glass lenses that display vibrant, full-color, wide field-of-view images.”
The firm has a portfolio of more than 200 patents related to holographic systems and materials, according to its website.
Apple has a history of buying smaller companies whose technologies show up years later in its products.
In 2013, Apple acquired a small Israeli firm called PrimeSense that made three-dimensional sensors. The iPhone X, launched last year, used a similar sensor to power facial recognition features.
The company last year launched AR applications for its iPhones and iPads. CEO Tim Cook has called augmented reality a “big and profound” technology development.
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