Apple just bought an AR glasses company

Apple has just bought robotic contact lens and AR glasses startup Akonia Holographics, the company revealed today.

Akonia Holographics has developed technology capable of displaying full-colour, wide-view images on a thin, transparent piece of glass such as a contact lens. The technology could potentially be used for glasses, mobile displays or computer screens. The company describes its tech as the “world’s first commercially available volume holographic reflective and waveguide optics for transparent display elements in smart glasses.” How succinct.

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However, despite this breakthrough, it’s likely that Apple is simply interested in the patents Akonia holds. In total, the startup owns more than 200 patents related to holographic systems and materials used to project images. Combine this with Apple’s seeming interest in augmented reality, and you’ve got yourself a rather smart business acquisition.

“This sone of those huge things we’ll look back at and marvel on the start of it,” Tim Cook said of augmented reality in a conference call with investors last year.

This also isn’t the first time Apple has snapped up a small imaging startup, having bought Primesense over five years ago. As with that acquisition, and many others Apple makes, the company has kept quiet about its intentions regarding its latest purchase. An Apple spokesperson commented that “Apple buys smaller companies from time to time, and we generally don’t discuss our purpose or plans”.

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It looks likely that Apple will use Akonia’s technology in its proposed smart glasses or an alternative augmented reality product that may or may not launch as early as next year. It won’t become clear until much later, just how Apple intends to capitalise upon Akonia’s capabilities – be it its tech nouse or simply the patents it holds.

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