Apple's latest acquisition suggests lightweight AR glasses are on the way

Glasses on a Macbook

Apple has bought Akonia Holographics, a startup that makes lenses for augmented reality headsets, suggesting its own long-awaited AR glasses are inching ever closer to customers' noses.

The acquisition seems to support rumors that Apple representatives secretly attended CES in January to hold private meetings with parts suppliers for AR glasses. Apple doesn't usually attend the technology show, preferring to focus its energies on its own launch events, but according to Bloomberg, Apple, Facebook and Google all sent reps to speak with potential partners.

Apple has confirmed the purchase, but declined to comment any further. "Apple buys smaller companies from time to time, and we generally don’t discuss our purpose or plans," a spokesperson told Reuters.

See the light

Earlier this year, Apple registered a patent for an "optical system for head-mounted display" that would be thinner and lighter than existing AR headsets, and specifically mentioned the need for a different type of lens that would reduce bulk and weight.

"If care is not taken, a head-mounted display may be cumbersome and tiring to wear," the company noted. "Optical systems for head-mounted displays may uses arrangements of lenses that are bulky and heavy. Extended use of a head-mounted display with this type of optical system"

Akonia claims that its proprietary HoloMirror technology "not only produces the thinnest full-color head worn display optic possible today, but also dramatically reduces overall system complexity" – all factors that would make it a perfect fit for super-light Apple glasses. It's definitely a project we'll be keeping an eye on.