Apple reportedly acquires AR startup Vrvana

The Montreal-based startup produced the Totem AR/VR headset, which never shipped.

Apple may just give augmented reality apps a boost with new iPhones, iOS 11 Apple has been quietly showing off ARKit apps and as its new iPhones launch the company will instantly add millions of new AR-capable devices to the field. Now there is Android and Google has a developer army, but the fragmentation of the mobile operating system and device diversity means it can't flip a switch on AR adoption. Apple has that switch. Rest assured that as Apple talks hardware specs, dual cameras and snazzy new iPhones for the 10th anniversary of the device the company also has an eye on killer apps. Why will Apple give AR a boost? First, the company has a unified base so it can enable devices with an OS update and device launch. Developers know they make money with Apple and the customer base monetizes well. Developers who were early to the AR and VR bandwagon haven't profited. AR has a big business use case and Apple dominates in the mobile enterprise. As a result, look for AR apps from the likes of Ikea on the consumer side and companies like IBM, SAP and Accenture on the business side. There are multiple industries that could make good use of AR. Oracle is already looking to integrate it into its apps.

Apple has acquired the Montreal-based startup Vrvana, according to TechCrunch, a 12-year-old company that could help Apple produce hardware for augmented reality and virtual reality experiences.

The deal was reportedly for around $30 million. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Vrvana makes the Totem headset, an AR/VR device that received positive reviews but has yet to be released.

In recent months, Apple has made a clear pivot toward AR. Earlier this year, the company touted the iPhone 8 as the first smartphone natively designed for augmented reality. The latest iPhones, combined with Apple's ARKit SDK, should help push AR apps and use cases further, but dedicated hardware would accelerate that process.

Meanwhile, CEO Tim Cook has had quite a bit to say about the state of AR. Back in August, he said AR has "broad mainstream applicability across education, entertainment interactive gaming, enterprise, and categories we probably haven't even thought of."

Yet earlier this month during Apple's fourth quarter earnings conference call, Cook was critical of existing AP applications. "I view AR as profound," he said. "Not today, not the app that you'll see on the App Store today, but what it will be, what it can be."

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