Technology

Apple Buys Canadian AR Headset Startup Vrvana For $30M [REPORT]

Apple has acquired Vrvana, the AR headset developer, for $30 million, reports TechCrunch. The Canadian startup is best known for their hybrid headset Totem, which has not yet been released.

AR Headset
pixel2013 / Pixabay

Vrvana AR headset – how it is different from others

Apple has neither denied nor confirmed the development, but sources told TechCrunch that several of the Vrvana employees have already joined Apple in California. However, the Vrvana site has still not gone black, but social accounts and news updates stopped this year in August.

Totem weaves the augmented and virtual reality together to form a single “extended reality” device. The headset tracks head position and the location of the user’s hand for manipulation of virtual objects.

Vrvana’s camera-based approach is different from those of others like Microsoft, which deploy transparent-based displays for its HoloLens headsets. Totem turns out to be a superior system to such technologies as it can overlay fully opaque, true color animations on top of the real world rather than the ghost-like projections of other headsets, which cannot display the color black. Such technology allows Totem to do what it refers to as a “Seamless blend” transition between VR and AR environments, according to TechCrunch.

How could Apple benefit?

Apple can utilize Totem’s technology in its upcoming device as the reports suggest that the iPhone maker is working on some sort of AR headset or smart glasses product. Apple’s rumored augmented reality headset is expected to have a dedicated display, unlike current AR and VR products that rely on smartphones or other devices, a built-in processor and a new “rOS” operating system. It is believed that the company has kept 2019 as the deadline to finish the product and ship it by 2020 if the project goes on as scheduled.

Not just Apple, Facebook and Microsoft are keen on augmented reality, believing the technology could end the era of most screen-based technology, including the smartphone. With AR tech, the consumer would no longer need to carry a phone, as texts and videos would be available even without the device. This could be one reason why Apple is taking the AR tech so seriously.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has already stated that AR has “broad mainstream applicability across education, entertainment interactive gaming, enterprise, and categories we probably haven’t even thought of.”

Vrvana is the second company after SMI in the field of AR and VR that Apple acquired this year. SMI is an eye-tracking firm that provides a solution for VR and AR headsets. Prior to these two, the iPhone maker acquired companies such as Flyby Media, Metaio, Emotient and Faceshift to empower its AR efforts.

Back in September, Apple also presented some spectacular AR demos while talking about its new ARKit platform, the power of the new camera, along with the A11 Bionic chip on its iPhone 8 and iPhone X. The demos showcased gaming, sports and high-fidelity visuals placed onto the real world, which could be viewed through the iPhone camera lens.

On Tuesday, Apple shares closed up 1.86% at $173.14. Year to date, the stock is up almost 50%, while in the last one month, it is up almost 11%.