Apple bought a Canadian AR startup for $30 million — and it could give Apple an edge in the next big thing (AAPL)

TimCook2016

  • Apple has acquired Vrvana, a startup building a headset that can do both virtual reality and augmented reality. The CEO and a dozen former employees have started at Apple.
  • TechCrunch reports the purchase price was around $30 million.
  • Augmented reality is a major focus for Apple, as the tech industry expects that high-tech headsets like the Totem could put a dent in the smartphone market.


Apple has purchased virtual reality headset maker Vrvana — bringing the iPhone maker closer to its reported goal of selling smart glasses by 2020.

The news was first reported by TechCrunch, and confirmed by a person familiar with the matter to Business Insider on Tuesday. Vrvana was founded in 2005 in Montreal, Canada. About a dozen Vrvana employees, including CEO Bertrand Nepveu, have been working at Apple in its augmented reality division for weeks, according to the source.

TechCrunch reports that the purchase price was about $30 million.

Vrvana is best known as the creator of the still-in-development Totem headset. In addition to virtual reality, the Vrvana Totem is said to be able to overlay full, colorized digital images over the real-world. That would be a step above rivals like the Microsoft HoloLens, which only project transparent "ghost" images within a limited field-of-view.

If the Vrvana Totem lives up to those lofty promises, it could give Apple a major leg up in augmented reality, which the company sees as the next major computing platform.

Apple's augmented reality division is said to be in the hundreds of employees, led by former Dolby executive Mike Rockwell. That team is reportedly focused on everything from Apple's headset efforts, to the ARkit augmented reality tech in Apple iOS 11.

vrvana totem

Augmented reality refers to the technology for projecting digital imagery over the real world. Facebook and Microsoft have both expressed their belief that augmented reality could replace most screen-based technology, including the smartphone — there's no reason to carry a phone, when your texts and videos are projected in front of your eyes.

This dynamic has made it a major imperative for Apple to build its position in augmented reality: If augmented reality glasses gain market position, it could harm sales of the iPhone, still Apple's most important business. That's reportedly a driver of Apple's push into possibly building its own augmented reality headset.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SEE ALSO: Apple has a secret team working to make the iPhone's camera a portal to augmented reality

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