It’s an open secret that Apple AR Glasses are on their way – 2019 may be too early, but fall 2020 seems like a likely date. The recent news that Cupertino acquired Akonia Holographics adds fuel to the fire (apologies for the idiom – I’m watching a live stream of the Burning Man Festival tonight).
Akonia started out in 2012 working on holographic storage solutions but over the past few years has focused on AR lenses. According to their website (surprisingly, still available),
Akonia Holographics LLC was founded by senior holography scientists, and holds an expansive technology portfolio including prototyping and media manufacturing equipment, and over 200 patents pertaining to holographic systems and materials. The HoloMirror™ has introduced new possibilities to finally enable lightweight, high-FOV and low-cost consumer AR head-worn displays.
What it means for Apple AR Glasses
As Venture Beat notes, Akonia’s HoloMirror technology promises dramatic improvements across five metrics including,
full color (RGB)
high field-of-view (FOV)
Venture Beat continues,
Current AR headsets are super-expensive, suffer from short battery life despite large sizes, and produce ghostly images inside small windows within your overall field of vision. AR won’t have a prayer of taking off until there’s a reasonably priced, power-efficient solution that produces colorful, natural-looking, and immersive imagery. That’s exactly what Akonia is claiming HoloMirror delivers.
And that’s exactly the challenge we face. Microsoft’s HoloLens has found a limited role in enterprise, a few retail settings, and university labs but it’s far outside the price point of the consumer market. And its narrow field-of-view (FoV) doesn’t help.
The recently released Magic Leap One is better on price and FoV (we’ve shared some early reviews from David Gull and Palmer Luckey) but faces challenges on production cost and efficiency. Consumers really don’t want to walk around with the Lightpack hooked on their pants pocket.
What makes the mobile revolution so powerful is that we use the same device for entertainment, communication, education (formal and informal) and work. AR and Mixed Reality will take off when a device cuts across the same range of environments.
Apple AR Glasses aren’t here yet, but the acquisition of Akonia is a major development in meeting the challenge of creating a lightweight, efficient, wide-FoV HMD that offers natural looking immersive imagery. Only then will AR be equally at home in the office, the university, and our personal lives.
And the revolution that brings will turn our so-called Smartphones into antiques from another decade.
Emory Craig is a writer, speaker, and VR consultant with extensive experience in art, new media, and higher education. He speaks at global conferences on innovation, education, and ethical technology in the future. He has published widely and worked with the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Living at the intersection of learning, games, and immersive storytelling, he is fascinated by AI-based avatars, digital twins, and the ethical implications of blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual.