You know the old phrase “follow the money?” Well Apple left us a pretty clear trail that came to light this week, and it leads directly to their intentions in Augmented Reality. The rumors that Apple is working toward making a set of stylish and accessible AR glasses have steadily gained steam over the last two years. We even have a report from a reliable source in Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman from last year, talking about Apple working toward a 2020 release date. However, Apple’s recent acquisition of Akonia Holographics is no rumor, and the implications are pretty clear.
So what is Longmont, Colorado-based Akonia Holographics all about? Lately, they have been developing lenses for Augmented Reality glasses. However, their roots in holographic technology go back to 2012, so they have been around longer than any mainstream consumer concept of AR, or really even VR. In their own words, the company’s HoloMirror technology delivers “thin, transparent smart glass lenses that display vibrant, full-color, wide field-of-view images.”
If you are building AR glasses, this sounds like a good company to have in your back pocket. Oh, and they also hold over 200 patents covering holographic systems and their application in AR. Plucking this company sounds like a smart move, especially when you consider Apple’s track record. They have a way of finding the perfect tech to set its products apart from the pack. In 2012, they picked up AuthenTec which lead to TouchID. In 2013 it was PrimeSense, which is part of the tech stack in FaceID that came to us in the iPhone X last year. This Akonia acquisition feels like the next in that line of key Apple purchases that turn into market-leading features.
Ironically, Akonia’s website has a reprint of a 2016 article from CNBC talking about Apple’s interest in AR. Kind of prophetic, isn’t it? Based on this, I’m guessing they were pretty excited when they got the call that Apple was handing them a golden ticket.
It may be another year or two before we see what all of this becomes, but make no mistake about it. Apple wouldn’t buy a company like Akonia for no reason. Their intentions in this space are real and serious, and unless something crazy happens, it looks like a set of AR glasses you won’t be embarrassed to wear in public are on the distant horizon.