Apple buys AR headset lens maker Akonia Holographics, fuels 'Apple Glasses' rumors

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited August 2018
Apple on Wednesday confirmed the purchase of Colorado-based Akonia Holographics, a startup focused on the development and production of specialized lenses used in augmented reality headsets.


Magic Leap AR headset.


Terms of the acquisition are unknown, though Apple issued its usual non-confirmation confirmation on the reported purchase to Reuters.

"Apple buys smaller companies from time to time, and we generally don't discuss our purpose or plans," Apple said in a statement.

According to an AR industry executive, the team at Akonia became "very quiet" over the past six months, suggesting Apple completed the purchase sometime this year.

Founded in 2012, Akonia's initial goal was to develop holographic data storage solutions, but the firm quickly transitioned to making displays for AR glasses. The company's flagship product, called HoloMirror, uses "proprietary volume holographic media and know-how to uniquely enable thin, transparent smart glass lenses that display vibrant, full-color, wide field-of-view images," according to its website.

Akonia claims its technology "will revolutionize" the smart glass display industry, offering manufacturers "ultra-clear, full-color performance" in thin and light headsets. Unlike similar solutions from the likes of Magic Leap, which use waveguides to funnel graphical information to multiple display planes positioned in front of a user's eyes, HoloMirror utilizes a single layer of media. The method not only reduces system complexity, but allows for integration into small form factors like common glasses.

The company holds a cache of more than 200 patents relating to holographic systems and materials, though it is not clear how many cover AR wearables.

Perhaps more importantly, Akonia says it "defined the technology" that will pave the way for improvements including greater field-of-view. In respect to AR, FOV is a key ingredient in AR immersion. Using a low-FOV AR device overlays computer generated graphics atop real-world objects, but the illusion ends abruptly at the edges of each display. High-FOV devices are, ostensibly, more immersive, extending the CGI field to the outer reaches of a user's vision.

For example, critics of Magic Leap's just released mixed reality headset say the system suffers from relatively low FOV, and thus pulls them out of the AR experience.

The acquisition provides insight into Apple's rumored "Apple Glasses," an in-house designed AR headset expected to ship in the next few years. A report last year claimed the tech giant is developing its own display and processor for the project, a route expected to require substantial assets in both hardware and software engineering.

Reports earlier this year claim the device, referred to internally as "T288," currently employs ultra high-resolution 8K displays and a separate processing unit to overlay virtual images over real-world objects present in a user's field of vision. If Apple intends to slim down the package and release it as an aesthetically appealing product, said displays would necessitate extremely thin and transparent lenses. Akonia's technology could provide such a solution.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 34
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,360member
    I have no idea how effective this market will be after Google tainted the tech eyewear market and other AR glasses seem to limited in scope to gaming that I don't think it's a market large enough for Apple to be interested, but I hope they work it out. Additionally, I hope their product can put a major hurt on the Luxottica monopoly.

    edit: For those not familiar with Luxottica's control of the eyewear market...


    edited August 2018 claire1cornchipNY1822repressthispatchythepiratejony0
  • Reply 2 of 34
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,675member
    Or it could for the self driving cars, stop reading too much into this.
    edited August 2018 lolliverSpamSandwichdysamoria
  • Reply 3 of 34
    Why hasn't Apple purchased  ODG  by now.  :/
  • Reply 4 of 34
    Soli said:
    I have no idea how effective this market will be after Google tainted the wearable eyewear market and other AR glasses seem to limited in scope to gaming that I don't think it's a market large enough for Apple to be interested, but I hope they work it out. Additionally, I hope their product can put a major hurt on the Luxottica monopoly.
    I agree! But I am more inclined to think that googles failure was based a lot on timing (people not ready for this type of tech), and the poor integration of the technology (as it is obvious that you are wearing something different). With this tech it may well be possible that they look just like ordinary glasses. Which brings me to applauding your luxottica comment. I for one would have no problem paying just a wee bit more for glasses with this capability than the plastic shaped sunglasses that I am currently sporting right now!
  • Reply 5 of 34
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,215member
    Soli said:
    I have no idea how effective this market will be after Google tainted the wearable eyewear market and other AR glasses seem to limited in scope to gaming that I don't think it's a market large enough for Apple to be interested, but I hope they work it out. Additionally, I hope their product can put a major hurt on the Luxottica monopoly.

    its all going to depend on what apple comes up with. many people have been hoping for something that looks like a pair of glasses, perhaps with heat changing tint so they can be worn indoors and out, sound in the ear pieces, non recording cameras and images being projected onto the lenses using forced perspective. if Apple created that then it might sell quite well. even as an add on to the iPhone and/or Apple Watch
    radarthekatsvanstromronn
  • Reply 6 of 34
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,215member
    maestro64 said:
    Or it could for the self driving cars, stop reading too much into this.
    this is a company that makes lenses no reason a self driving car would need that. AR HUD for smart car maybe
    ronn
  • Reply 7 of 34
    I’m honestly saw this coming, I’m surprised it took this long.  They could’ve been purchased by someone else.
    radarthekat
  • Reply 8 of 34
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    Apple will dominate the industry. Buh bye, Magic Leap. Snort!
    radarthekatrepressthis
  • Reply 9 of 34
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,360member
    Soli said:
    I have no idea how effective this market will be after Google tainted the wearable eyewear market and other AR glasses seem to limited in scope to gaming that I don't think it's a market large enough for Apple to be interested, but I hope they work it out. Additionally, I hope their product can put a major hurt on the Luxottica monopoly.
    its all going to depend on what apple comes up with. many people have been hoping for something that looks like a pair of glasses, perhaps with heat changing tint so they can be worn indoors and out, sound in the ear pieces, non recording cameras and images being projected onto the lenses using forced perspective. if Apple created that then it might sell quite well. even as an add on to the iPhone and/or Apple Watch
    I'm not convinced it is for eyewear simply because that market has such a major range from multiple vectors, but that's what the article seems to be addressing so that's what I replied to in my original comment.

    I HUDs for automobiles seem very likely as well using Face ID tech for making sure the "pilot" is reasonably aware until such time as automobiles can reach their final, autonomous stage of development.
    repressthis
  • Reply 10 of 34
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,497member
    Consider the company also may have been purchased by Apple for their holographic storage IP. 
    claire1mattinozronnrepressthisdysamoriajony0
  • Reply 11 of 34
    claire1claire1 Posts: 510unconfirmed, member
    Consider the company also may have been purchased by Apple for their holographic storage IP. 
    Wow never thought holographic storage would ever exist.

    Edit: Reminds me of my Wii fan days. I suggested Nintendo adopt Holographic Discs for their next console. People thought I was crazy and I mentioned how cool a 5GB Mario would be. I'll never forget this reply: "Mario will never need 5GB of data."
    So just now I looked up Mario Odyssey and it's 5.7GB!! How time flies!
    edited August 2018 SpamSandwichrepressthis
  • Reply 12 of 34
    I believe the true brilliancy of “iSight” (hope some of y’all enjoyed that...) is the abstaraction of technology into a usable and transparent implementation.  A prime example being AirPods, an essential piece of technology that fills a need in the market, and requires almost no thought or effort.  Use case scenarios encompass almost anything; navigation, notifications, landmark or point of interest recognition, virtual space sharing (ie: watching a movie with a friend that appears to be sitting on your other couch), virtual screens  & keyboards, data analytics, drone piloting, walk through video instructions, personal safety, person recognition, games, education, virtual tourist, shopping, mental illness, artificial bionics, etc.  With the App Store, anyone should be able to write apps and plugins specific to any task.

    Five years ago, I began telling my friends that babies are being born, who will only know an augmented world, much like my generation can’t comprehend a world without the internet.
    If we have the world at our fingertips, they will have the world within their ever watchful eyes.  On the human technology curve this will be a milestone that will shape us as a species, in so many unpredictable ways.  A modern “Allegory of the Cave”, in which man cannot return to darkness and ignorance.
    igerardrepressthis
  • Reply 13 of 34
    mejsricmejsric Posts: 135member
    Soli said:
    I have no idea how effective this market will be after Google tainted the tech eyewear market and other AR glasses seem to limited in scope to gaming that I don't think it's a market large enough for Apple to be interested, but I hope they work it out. Additionally, I hope their product can put a major hurt on the Luxottica monopoly.

    edit: For those not familiar with Luxottica's control of the eyewear market...



    Apple will make it right.
  • Reply 14 of 34

    maestro64 said:
    Or it could for the self driving cars, stop reading too much into this.

    It could be Apple iWear (glasses) that could connect to your Apple Car and give you all the visual cues you need while driving.

    On non-Apple Cars, it would do rudimentary AR stuff like projecting street view so you know where to go and what to look for.


    Tangentially related (to the holographic storage bit), I wonder when the 3D NAND SSD modules will make it to computers.

  • Reply 15 of 34
    Soli said:
    I HUDs for automobiles seem very likely as well using Face ID tech for making sure the "pilot" is reasonably aware until such time as automobiles can reach their final, autonomous stage of development.
    I drove a Jaguar I-Pace with the HUD option recently. It is very well done IMHO. I have had some experience with HUD's in Military Aircraft so can appreciate what they have done. It is Simple and uncomplicated.

    The tech for this is already out there. I see it spreading to other makes before long.
    Personally, I'd take this over self driving anyday but that is just my opinion.
    farmboy
  • Reply 16 of 34
    Soli said:
    I have no idea how effective this market will be after Google tainted the wearable eyewear market and other AR glasses seem to limited in scope to gaming that I don't think it's a market large enough for Apple to be interested, but I hope they work it out. Additionally, I hope their product can put a major hurt on the Luxottica monopoly.

    its all going to depend on what apple comes up with. many people have been hoping for something that looks like a pair of glasses, perhaps with heat changing tint so they can be worn indoors and out, sound in the ear pieces, non recording cameras and images being projected onto the lenses using forced perspective. if Apple created that then it might sell quite well. even as an add on to the iPhone and/or Apple Watch
    There is still a lot of work. Imagine that if you want "regurlal" glasses they have to miniaturize processing unit to drive 8K display! And you have to have battery for such beast. And important point is non recording camera as otherwise you would be banned on a lot of places. Apple is probably one of few companies that can keep glasses from hackers that would allow recording. Hopefully :-)
    edited August 2018
  • Reply 17 of 34
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 4,295member
    Consider the company also may have been purchased by Apple for their holographic storage IP. 
    That is what I would bet on for this acquisition.
  • Reply 18 of 34
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,443member
    Soli said:
    I HUDs for automobiles seem very likely as well using Face ID tech for making sure the "pilot" is reasonably aware until such time as automobiles can reach their final, autonomous stage of development.
    I drove a Jaguar I-Pace with the HUD option recently. It is very well done IMHO. I have had some experience with HUD's in Military Aircraft so can appreciate what they have done. It is Simple and uncomplicated.

    The tech for this is already out there. I see it spreading to other makes before long.
    Personally, I'd take this over self driving anyday but that is just my opinion.
    ...but did it support Car Play?  ;)

    Must say I love that car.  Very tempted to take a test drive.  Last Jag I had was the XJS V6, note not the V12 which was a straight line marvel but as I was in the highlands of Scotland and lots if cornering the V6 was far better suited.  I've never truly enjoyed driving anything as much since.  As a side bar, I asked the sales manager how did Jaguar get their leather to smell so damn good?  "They leave the meat on the other side laddie" came the retort with a wink.
    edited August 2018 SpamSandwich
  • Reply 19 of 34
    Soli said:
    I have no idea how effective this market will be after Google tainted the tech eyewear market and other AR glasses seem to limited in scope to gaming that I don't think it's a market large enough for Apple to be interested, but I hope they work it out. 
    How can you question whether Apple is "interested" in this market when Tim Cook has been public about Apple's interest in VR/AR for the past few years?  Plus, you know, they just bought a company in that space.  I'm thinking the're interested.
    SpamSandwichjbgomez88StrangeDaysdysamoria
  • Reply 20 of 34
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,979member
    Soli said:
    I have no idea how effective this market will be after Google tainted the tech eyewear market and other AR glasses seem to limited in scope to gaming that I don't think it's a market large enough for Apple to be interested, but I hope they work it out. 
    How can you question whether Apple is "interested" in this market when Tim Cook has been public about Apple's interest in VR/AR for the past few years?  Plus, you know, they just bought a company in that space.  I'm thinking the're interested.
    Cook did remark at I think it was the “D” conference, on stage when he was asked, in an interview, that Apple didn’t think eyewear would work, but that they were very interested in, and he shook it, the wrist. So that’s where it’s coming from.

    im not convinced that, as someone who wore glasses almost all of my life, until I had cataract operations, which allow me to not wear them other than for reading, most people will want to wear glasses much of the time, for this purpose. Sunglasses outside, and inside for the few who think that look is cool, yes. But glasses much of the time otherwise, no.

    these would have to be so compelling that not wearing them would be seen as unusual. I don’t see that happening for a long time. For gaming, sure. But you won’t walk around while gaming with glasses on, at least, I hope not.

    for some specialized uses, I can see it. But that won’t drive the needed volume, which needs to be around 100 million a year for this to be viable. Otherwise costs will be too high. And what about standardization: we can’t have several companies all with their own standards. For console gaming, it sort of works, but even there it’s a problem. VR development is far more complex.
    edited August 2018
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