Apple has bought a startup that makes lenses for AR glasses

Rumours of Apple’s plans for its own set of Augmented Reality (AR) glasses have been swirling for some time, but a new acquisition is the biggest indicator yet that the iPhone maker has serious plans afoot.

Reuters reports that Apple has purchased Akonia Holographics: a startup that builds lenses for augmented reality glasses. And while Apple is keeping schtum about the purpose of the acquisition (“Apple buys smaller companies from time to time, and we generally don’t discuss our purpose or plans,” the company said), it would be hugely surprising if this wasn’t another step on the journey to putting Apple glasses on your face.

This is not a new revelation. Earlier this month, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo forecast that Apple would launch both AR glasses and a car in the next few years. All the same, seeing concrete evidence of the plans offers real assurance that this speculation is indeed correct.

The move is the next logical step on from Apple’s current AR efforts, which are focussed around using the cameras on its iPhones and iPads to offer augmented reality experiences. The firm has proved reluctant to embrace mobile virtual reality in the same way as competitors Google and Samsung.

Related: What is Apple ARKit?

It’s not clear when the acquisition went through, but the firm has apparently been “very quiet” in the last six months which is a strong indicator it may have happened during that period – or at least have been in the works.

Akonia Holographics was originally founded in 2012 with the mission of creating holographic data storage, but its aims gradually shifted over to crafting panels for AR glasses. It claims its technology – the subject of over 200 patents – allow “thin, transparent smart glass lenses that display vibrant, full-colour, wide field-of-view images.”

Eye-based wearables have had a somewhat rocky start in life. Google Glass was discontinued for non-business use before it even got out of its early Explorer Edition version, while the recently released developer version of the Magic Leap One has already faced some criticism over its usability.

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