Apple has bought Metaio, a German company developing technology which combines real-world imaginary and software-generated elements, according to a recent court filing.
The company responded cryptically when questioned over the acquisition by TechCrunch, the tech site where the first reports about the acquisition appeared.
“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” Apple said without providing any further details.
According to a Munich court filing, Apple is now Metaio’s sole owner.
Metaio was founded in 2003 as an offshoot of Volkswagen to develop augmented reality technologies.
Augmented reality technology employs apps and devices that use cameras such as smartphones to create enhanced reality by overlaying computer generated items onto the real world.
Metaio, for example, developed an app for Ferrari showrooms to exhibit the cars’ features in virtual reality. Another customer of the company was IKEA.
Apple is not a stranger to augmented reality. The tech giant patented an iPhone virtual headset earlier this year.
However, it seems Apple’s Maps is the best fit for the augmented reality technology, according to many experts speculating in various media reports.
“Pointed toward a cafe, for example, the screen could show a virtual view of menu items or daily specials. If the user points her phone toward a street, a virtual outline of local businesses, restaurants, shopping stores, or coffee shops could appear," Marc Gurman from 9to5Mac wrote this week.
It’s estimated that the market for augmented reality products used in enterprises will increase tenfold to $2.4 billion from $247 million.
With Facebook’s Occulus Rift, Microsoft’s Hololens headset and Google’s Glass and newly announced Cardboard, Metaio’s acquisition will help Apple not be left behind in what is clearly an emerging trend.