Apple acquired AR startup Vrvana for US$30 million
Two sources told TechCrunch that Apple has acquired AR headset startup Vrvana for US$30 million. While Vrvana's website is still up, several employees have joined Apple in California, and its social media channels have no updates since August.
Vrvana earned its reputation from its unreleased Totem headset, which received excellent reviews from people who had early hands-on with the device. The Totem is an 'extended reality' device that can deliver both AR and virtual reality (VR) experiences.
It uses numerous forward-facing pass-through cameras to replicate the surroundings on its OLED screens inside the headset. Compared to the likes of Microsoft's HoloLens headset, Vrvana's approach with the Totem is different, and said to be superior in many ways.
The Totem holds a number of advantages over these systems, most notably in that it is able to overlay fully opaque, true-color animations on top of the real world rather than the ghost-like projections of other headsets which critically cannot display the color black. This allows the headset to do what it calls 'seamless blend' transitions between VR and AR environments.
The latest acquisition is significant as it is the clearest indicator yet of where Apple is heading in AR. Since November 2016, Apple has been rumored to be working on digital glasses that can connect wirelessly to the iPhone and display information. At CES 2017, a Zeiss employee reportedly confirmed that Apple is working with the company on a pair of AR glasses.
UBS analyst Steven Milunovich also reported that Apple has over 1,000 engineers working on an AR project in Israel. In March this year, Bloomberg wrote a lengthy article on the great lengths that Apple took to develop AR products with a multi-disciplinary team.