Apple has just acquired Canada-based augmented reality (AR) headset manufacturer Vrvana for an estimated $30 million. This comes a week after reports emerged that Apple was gearing up to ship its own AR headset by 2020. Vrvana is a startup that produces a mixed reality headset called Totem. While the headset has been in production for a while, it has never been shipped, TechCrunch reports. While Apple is tight-lipped about the acquisition, Vrvana employees have reportedly moved to the Apple HQ.
The yet-to-be-launched Totem headset is an “extended reality” device utilizing key technologies from both AR and virtual reality (VR), according to the Vrvana website. It allows users to experience mixed reality through a single headset. Totem is said to be intrinsically different from Microsoft’s HoloLens in the way it utilizes a camera instead of transparent, projection-based displays. This allows the headset to do what it calls “seamless blend” transitions between VR and AR environments. While Totem hasn’t reached consumers yet, it received glowing reviews from the tech circle.
Incidentally, Vrvana has also cut business deals with the likes of Tesla and Audi in the past. While most headset manufacturers are focusing on consumer offerings like gaming and entertainment, Totem might be building its expertise for enterprise usage. “Totem’s hand tracking and inside-out positional tracking empowers your workforce to manipulate virtual objects with their hands wherever they please,” Vrvana states in promotional materials on the headset.
It is this enterprise focus that perhaps propelled Apple towards Totem. Earlier this year, CEO Tim Cook had identified enterprise as a key area for Apple’s AR ambitions. Apple is building that division both on its own as well as through partnerships with leading IT providers like Cisco, IBM, and SAP. If recent reports are to be believed, Apple has put together a team of computer scientists, engineers, designers, and gamers for developing its own AR headset. It is rumored to run on a new chip and rOS (reality operating system) that the iPhone-maker is putting in place. And the Vrvana acquisition only reaffirms Apple’s intense focus on augmented reality hardware.