Apple's Recent Purchase Of Augmented Reality Startup Sparks Rumors Of Future Plans For AR Smart Glasses

Apple confirmed on Wednesday that it acquired a Colorado-based startup that creates lenses for augmented reality glasses. While there's a chance that the company's acquisition of Akonia Holographics might hint at the eventual release of AR smart glasses a few years down the line, it also appears possible that the tech giant is planning to leverage the acquisition in a simpler way — by introducing AR functionality to its Maps app in some way, shape, or form.

The news of Apple's purchase of Akonia was reported on Thursday by Reuters, which speculated that the acquisition could be a sign that the iPhone maker is planning to manufacture a wearable device that has the ability to "superimpose digital information on the real world." The report also cited Bloomberg, which wrote last year that Apple was working on AR smart glasses and hoping to release them as early as 2020, as well as the company's CEO, Tim Cook, who was quoted in 2017 as saying augmented reality is a "big and profound" technological advance.

Similarly, Business Insider reported on the Akonia deal on Sunday, noting that the transaction was so small that it probably wouldn't be listed in regulatory filings, but nonetheless backed up previous rumors that Apple has plans to release "some kind of head-mounted gadget" within the next few years. The publication cited multiple passages from Akonia's website that seemed to corroborate those rumors, including one which described a product that "introduced new possibilities" to allow for lighter and more affordable augmented reality wearables.

Although the above reports offered compelling arguments to suggest Apple has serious plans to release augmented reality smart glasses in the future, 9to5Mac wrote on Sunday that the company's most recent job postings are mainly focused on "AR Application" positions. One of the listings for an Apple Maps position described the new forms of technology, including LIDAR and augmented reality, that could result in breakthroughs in the development of digital mapping apps.

Furthermore, a job listing for "iOS and macOS Engineer" listed familiarity with Apple Maps and augmented reality application programming interfaces (APIs) among the requirements for interested candidates.

Additional details on Apple's acquisition of Akonia, including the startup's purchase price and the timeline of the transaction, remain unconfirmed at the present. When pressed by Reuters for more information on the deal, Apple replied with a prepared statement that explained how the tech giant purchases smaller companies "from time to time," but "generally [doesn't] discuss [the] purpose or plans" for those acquisitions.