One of the largest premium smartphone manufacturer Apple Inc. has quietly acquired a hardware startup which is known by the name as Akonia Holographics LLC that focused on developing components for most of the augmented reality headsets.
The iPhone maker confirmed the deal after it came to light late Wednesday with the customary statement as it also provides user to verify acquisitions. “Apple buys smaller companies from time to time, and we generally don’t discuss our purpose or plans,” the company told in a new according to a report. There’s no information on exactly when it purchased Akonia or for how much.
According to one AR industry insider which is mostly cited by Reuters, the startup became “very quiet” in the past six months, which also suggests that the deal took place sometime in the beginning of this year. Perhaps not coincidentally, Akonia divulged back in the year 2016 that it expects its technology to be ready for production by 2018.
The Longmont, Colorado-based startup’s flagship product is a specialized lens designed for use in the displays of augmented reality headsets. It’s a transparent layer of glass and proprietary “holographic photopolymers” developed from research that the Akonia team conducted during their time at Bell Labs. They launched the startup in 2012 with over 200 patents carried over from their previous projects to commercialize the technology.
Akonia’s website says that the lens is cheap to produce, thin and lightweight, traits with the potential to simplify the production of AR displays. The startup further claims that the technology checks these boxes while providing “ultra-clear, full-color visuals” with a large field of view. That’s significant because the bigger the wearer’s viewing area, the more immersive their AR experience becomes.
Apple’s acquisition of Akonia comes less than a year after Bloomberg reported that it could ship an AR headset as early as 2020. The startup’s technology might give the iPhone maker a needed edge over players such as Microsoft Corp. that are currently much further along their AR hardware roadmaps.