Apple is inching a little closer to where everyone thinks it's going to go — smart augmented reality or AR glasses that superimpose data and images on top of the real world. CEO Tim Cook is a huge believer in AR and wearables, hence the introduction of Apple Watch on his, well, watch. Apple's acquisition of Colorado-based Akonia Holographics, as reported by Reuters, a 6-year-old company that makes glass lenses designed for AR, brings his vision a step closer.
Apple has a history of buying startups and integrating their technologies into future products, and Akona claims the HoloMirror technology inside its glass lenses will allow for low-cost, field-of-view, lightweight AR glasses. That's AR glasses, for the masses.
Apple built AR technology into iOS 11, and Cook is already on-record as a believer. "Simply put, we believe augmented reality is going to change the way we use technology forever," he said in an earnings call in November 2017. "We're already seeing things that will transform the way you work, play, connect and learn."
Since Apple rolled out it's ARKit for iPhone in September 2017, the world of AR apps has exploded. In March, app data firm Sensor Tower estimated that the more users had installed 13 million AR apps built on Apple's development kit in the first six months. While the gaming industry has been early adopters, non-tech brands like the BBC's Civilizations AR, Ikea's Ikea Place and fitness app Strava's Fitness AR.
All of these are great applications for a phone or tablet, but glasses would clearly take all of this to the next level.
It's usually a few years from the time Cook hints at a new product until we see it (he talked up wearables for a few years before the first Apple Watch rollout.) So it seems likely that some sort of head-work AR device could be Apple's next attempted technological breakthrough — and not one we're likely going to see on September 12th at the next big Apple event.