Technology company Apple Inc has reportedly acquired Akonia Holographics, a startup focused on making lenses for augmented reality glasses, the company confirmed on Wednesday, a signal Apple has ambitions to make a wearable device that would superimpose digital information on the real world.
The company 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 glasses.
“Apple buys smaller companies from time to time, and we generally don’t discuss our purpose or plans,” Apple stated.
Akonia also said it raised $11.6 million in seed funding in 2012 and was seeking additional funding. It was unclear whether that funding ever materialized or who the firm’s investors were.
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 Akonia acquisition is the first clear indication of how Apple might handle one of the most daunting challenges in augmented reality hardware: Producing crystal clear optical displays thin and light enough to fit into glasses.
Augmented reality headsets currently on the market such as Microsoft’s HoloLens and startup Magic Leap’s Magic Leap One both use darkened lenses and are intended for indoor use. Both are also intended for software developers testing the technology and cost several thousand dollars.