Apple looks set to get into the augmented reality glasses game

Gadget giant Apple has acquired a startup that makes a glass technology which can display holographic AR images.

There was no formal announcement, but Reuters got the scoop and obliged Apple to confirm the move. The startup in question is called Akonia Holographics and, while it has a website, it doesn’t seem to have been very active for a while. Its main technology is called HoloMirror, which seems to combine regular ‘heads-up display’ style AR with holography.

Various other tech companies, including Google and Snapchat, have dabbled with smart glasses over the years, but they have yet to take off as a consumer tech category. Aside from the complications associated with superimposing AR over your regular life, there have been widespread concerns about the privacy implications of glasses that could surreptitiously record whatever the wearer sees and hears.

For some reason the Reuters story cited Pokemon Go as an example of augmented reality, where in fact it mainly just presents digital images on the camera screen without context. True augmented reality offers information and digital interaction with whatever you see through the lens or camera and has the potential to fundamentally blur the boundary between digital and analogue.

If Apple does bring some kind of AR glasses (or even contact lenses!) to market, it will be interesting to see if it manages to do so in a way that both makes them more user-friendly and successfully addresses the creepiness factor. It hasn’t done a great job of getting into other consumer electronics categories recently, so Apple is likely to spend a long time thinking this through before it makes its move.