Apple Acquires Metaio, An Augmented Reality Startup

Apple has bought augmented reality startup Metaio, claims a report from TechCrunch. The startup is a frontrunner in augmented reality and computer vision, known for creating Metaio Creator, an augmented reality tool, in order to enable users create amplified reality scenarios in just couple of minutes or so.

Price paid not revealed

Apple reportedly sealed the purchase of Munich-based Metaio but did not reveal the price or the purpose behind the acquisition. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company confirmed the acquisition with its usual statement: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

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Metaio has stopped taking customers, and a shareholder document related to the transferring of shares also confirms that the company has been acquired by Apple, says the report.

With the help of augmented reality, hand-drawn sketches, navigational directions, historic video, or computers, three-dimensional images can be produced. With augmented reality, viewers get the feeling as if they are stepping into some kind of artificial world. Several companies are clients of Metaio’s augmented reality tools, which are used to create interactive experiences. One big name is Ferrari, which designed an augmented reality showroom with Metaio and used it in Berlin to show travelers how the present scene they are looking at must have looked with the Berlin Wall still there.

With Apple acquiring Metaio, there are good possibilities that the iPhone maker will enter the AR smart glasses market, believe Eric Mizufuka, Product Manager, New Ventures at Epson America (makers of the Moverio smart glasses and a Metaio partner).

“The potential for augmented reality on smart glasses is validated by Apple’s expected purchase of Metaio,” said Eric, adding “Metaio’s integration into Apple offers a great opportunity for other platforms to serve the growing AR glasses market.”

How Apple plans to use Metaio

It is not clear how Apple plans to use Metaio’s technology, but there have been persistent rumors indicating Apple’s interest in virtual reality and augmented reality. Based on patents, Apple has explored a video headset, a motion-sensing virtual 3D interface for iOS devices, and 3D “hyper-reality” displays. Apple might have acquired Metaio hoping to use the startup’s AR creation tools to introduce unique features to Maps and other apps.

A rumor in 2014 suggested that the company was looking to integrate augmented reality features into Maps, and recent rumors suggest that the iPhone maker is working on a “Browse Around Me” feature for iOS 9 which includes an augmented reality view.

Further, rumors reveal that Apple has a small team working on augmented reality projects at its Cupertino headquarters, but as of now, there is no timeline on when the U.S. firm will get these features into its products.

It’s not just Apple that is stepping into the virtual reality world; other big tech firms such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft are also working on augmented or virtual reality products.