Apple has acquired Akonia Holographics, a startup focused on holographic display and storage technology. The move is the latest development in a years-long string of acquisitions, patents, and hirings by the company focused on augmented and virtual reality technology

The acquisition of Akonia Holographics was confirmed to Reuters by Apple, though the tight-lipped company had nothing to share regarding the purpose of the acquisition.

Founded in 2012, Colorado-based Akonia Holographics claims to have 200 patents focused on holography, specifically pertaining to storage and optics. The company says their ‘HoloMirror’ technology “[uses] a fundamentally different approach than thin holography or surface relief gratings, [allowing for] for dramatically higher performance than any holographic element in the past.” VentureBeat reported back in 2016 that the company was at the time targeting a 60 degree field of view for its AR optics, which is claims are the “thinnest full-color head worn display optic possible today.”

The company previously raised $11.6 million in venture capital back in 2012, according to Crunchbase. According to the company’s website, they were “actively seeking funding for a Series A investment” prior to the acquisition news.

Apple's Latest VR Patent Describes a Compact VR Headset with Eye Tracking

Akonia Holographics is the latest move in a years-long string of Apple acquisitions, patents, and hirings focused on augmented and virtual reality technology. Late last year the company reportedly acquired VR headset startup Vrvana.

Still, the company has yet to officially announced that it has plans to launch an AR or VR headset, despite their work on handheld AR on iOS devices, and regular allusions to head-worn AR as an area of focus for the company. Back in April, a CNET report indicated that Apple is working on a combined AR/VR headset with an 8K per-eye resolution and a 2020 launch target.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • A.W.

    Hopefully the rights to the tech bought will be used.
    Might be for the best for Apple to continue developing their technology until it’s consumer ready before making any announcements. Would boost the general public’s opinion of AR and even VR…

  • Molmir

    The reason AR is stuck with rendering looking like “holograms” is that a reflection of a black pixel is a transparent pixel. Because black is the absence of light, and you cannot reflect when there is no light rays present. So the darker a rendered object gets, the emitted light is decreased from the screen, and so the reflected light presented to the eye is reduced, causing the object to appear more transparent.

    Dimming the lenses can only partially solve this problem, because only an opaque device can achieve opaque rendering with current tech. And then it is VR, actually. So without rewriting the laws of physics, they need to find a way to dynamically add opaque areas exacly where rendering is reflected in real time.

    • Ian Shook

      Or have really good cameras to mimic your eyes and re-project onto into a VR headset. So pass-through VR

    • Jack H

      This is a reasonably slim design to correct shadows/ subtractive AR:

      …other methods usually use off-axis LCOS and reprojection optics to filter the ambient light.

      This is my attempt:

      • So essentially provide transparent switchable plane to provide occlusion along with projected light stream. This way you still use projected ‘black’ as transparent layer for foreground real object occlusion, but the switchable transparent layer to occlude real world objects behind the object. If this is right, I would much rather have the two planes being used for this purpose than the less than noticeable DOF focus planes now used by ML that still requires two frames to be rendered in 1/60th of second.

        Do you have a prototype yet?

  • We all know that an AR headset by apple will come sooner or later…

    • Yep, just like everything else that has shown some traction in technology world.

  • Ellon Musk

    this 8k dual display dream that apple has will in no way come into fruition by 2020. If they can’t even get an iPhone to get a decent battery life with a single screen having sub 2k resolution in 2018, no way on earth are they going stick 2 8k displays in an eyewear product in only 2 years. If they are lucky, maybe in 2030 at the rate they are moving. The holograph tech however does sound exciting.

    • Actually this is not a dream. I have firsthand knowledge this does exist and the factory is either completed or near completion in China. With the above acquisition of Akonia Holographics and in the past Metaio and Primesense. As a plus they have a few years of testing of the latter two technologies in ARKit and facial scanning sensor in the iPhone X. This gives them all the pieces to have something to compete in this market, if not propel it much further than Magic Leap’s fantasy product will.

      Even though I am not fan of Apple in any stretch of the word, buying up some of the most prominent tech companies in AR, positional tracking & scanning would make it very hard to ignore their intentions. Plus, let’s not forget they are also working on their on GPU design, which will probably have silicon dedicated to functions similar to CUDA cores in NVIDIA GPUs, that specialize in spatial analysis.

      • dsadas

        calm down there is no chance that they will release an AR/VR device with 8k per eye in 2020. NO CHANCE. You have no idea what you are talking about.

        • Really? Do you have anything to refute my accessment, or just a need to comment? Also, it is 7680 not ‘8K’ so technically you are correct, and again I will stress I am not a fan of Apple, but there is no reason at this point to doubt they are moving towards some type of solution for 2020 based only on their acquisitions and progress with ARKit. I too was scepitical if I did not have firsthand knowledge of this display panel and information about the companies they have already acquired. But Apple, is in no hurry until they see their beloved iPhone decline, so 2020 is just pure rumor, until it isn’t.