Apple Quietly Bought An Augmented Reality Startup
Apple has quietly bought Metaio, a startup from Germany that’s been focusing on AR since it launched in 2003. “Pioneers in Augmented Reality and Computer Vision,” reads a message displayed in large font on Metaio’s website.
Could your iPhone be getting an upgrade soon? Apple is set to add augmented reality to your phone, overlaying useful information on live video. It could mean maps that come to life, showing you directions and landmarks on top of real time video from your handset’s camera.
Currently, Metaio’s augmented-reality software is used in applications in retail, industrial and automotive markets. The technology is used to create virtual product showrooms and by retailers such as Ikea. It has also created visual manuals for repairing complex industrial or automotive equipment.
What is AR? Augmented reality is produced by software that overlays text or graphics on real-life images and objects, typically in video. The result can be viewed on TV displays, smartphones, tablets or dedicated eye-goggles. AR differs from virtual reality, which replaces real-world views with more or less completely simulated ones.
Steffen Sorrell, an analyst with technology market research firm Juniper Research, said Apple, which builds custom computer chips it uses in a range of products, could incorporate Metaio’s intellectual property to differentiate its products.
This could give Apple a jump on rivals who are working to develop augmented reality semiconductors but remain at least 18 to 24 months away from delivery, the analyst said.