Apple has reportedly spent about $30 million acquiring Canadian augmented reality firm Vrvana. The acquisition would indicate that Cupertino is gathering assets to make its planned push into the AR market.
The company’s ARKit SDK for iPhone applications was only the beginning. Apple plans on having headset technology ready by 2019 and a finished product released by 2020. The acquisition of a dedicated headset developer seems to fall in line with those plans.
Founded in 2006 on a shoestring budget of less than $2 million in Montréal, Canada, Vrvana’s focus has been solely on its Totem mixed reality headset. The product has not been released yet but Tom’s Hardware got its hands on a Totem prototype and said it was the most impressive thing it saw at the Immersed 2016 trade show.
“I expected good things from the Totem, but I wasn’t expecting it to knock my socks off the way it did,” said Tom’s Hardware reviewer Kevin Carbotte.
Unlike other AR devices, the Totem uses 1440p QHD pass-through cameras rather than a transparent, projection-based display like the one in the HoloLens. This technique allows for more vivid immersion since objects have full opacity. The device can also transition from AR to VR seamlessly and has 360-degree positional and hand-tracking capabilities.
Apple and Vrvana have remained quiet about the merger but sources close to the deal told TechCrunch the acquisition was already wrapped up. Several of the start-up’s employees are already working in Apple’s California offices.
While the small company still maintains its website, communications through its social media channels have been quiet since August which seems to reinforce the anonymous reports. Additionally, Apple has acquired other AR/VR firms including SMI, Flyby Media, Metaio, Emotient and Faceshift, so the claims seem credible.
Animation via TechCrunch