Just a little more than a week before Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, reports have surfaced that Apple has acquired German augmented reality (AR) software company Metaio.
The unexpected move signals the iPhone maker may be prepping a deep dive into the world of the virtual, a turn that could dramatically increase interest in what has been, to date, a mostly niche technology.
SEE ALSO: Microsoft demos Windows 10 apps on HoloLens, and it’s stunning
The first news of the acquisition came on Thursday via 9to5Mac, which also surfaced a German filing posted to Twitter that shows a transfer of company shares.
Early warnings of an impending change at Metaio popped up earlier this month when it cancelledits InsideAR conference and announced that it would no longer make products or subscriptions available to the public.
Recent examples of Metaio’s augmented reality work include a Ferrari showroom in which a customer can virtually examine the car’s mechanics and change its color via tablet. Yet another, the TimeTraveler Augmented app, allowed tourists in Germany to view historic footage at important sites when holding a tablet in front of the location.
Although Apple has remained typically mum on the topic of acquisitions in regards to Metaio, snagging the company brings a recent Apple patent to mind: a head-mounted virtual reality display. Yet another viable possibility, floated by 9to5Mac, claims that Apple is working on adding augmented reality to its Maps app on iOS.
Although Apple hasn’t commented on the deal, the possibilities for its hardware and software ecosystem are exciting. Imagine exploring any number of real world sites while holding up your iPhone or iPad and having augmented reality information pushed to you in real-time. Such software is already widely available for iOS devices, but Apple providing its own native solution would likely enhance the experience severalfold.
There’s no sure way to know what the Metaio acquisition means at this point, mainly because Apple is famous for misdirection and experimenting on technologies that may never see the light of day. But given the current excitement around AR, the deal makes sense.
With Microsoft touting its HoloLens, Google already deep in the AR mix via Cardboard Expeditions, Google Glass and its AR game Ingress, and Magic Leap promising big things, Apple’s entry into the space is yet another signal AR is about to move from edge technology to mainstream tool.