Apple buys Irish-backed software maker Metaio

Potential applications could include augmented reality on mobile handsets or smart-glasses

Metaio augmented reality has been used by Ikea. The firm has been bought by Apple

Metaio augmented reality has been used by Ikea. The firm has been bought by Apple

 

Apple has acquired an augmented reality software firm, whose investors include Dublin-based Atlantic Bridge.

Metaio’s technology merges real-world imagery and computer-generated elements into moving video presentations. Metaio technology is used to create virtual product showrooms and by retailers such as IKEA. It has also created visual manuals for repairing complex industrial or automotive equipment.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed but a document filed with a Munich court showed that Apple is now the company’s sole shareholder.

Augmented reality is software that overlays text or graphics on real-life images and objects, typically in video. The result can be viewed on TV displays, smartphones, tablets or dedicated eye-goggles. It differs from virtual reality, which replaces real-world views with more or less completely simulated ones.

Steffen Sorrell, an analyst with technology market research firm Juniper Research, said Apple, which builds custom computer chips it uses in a range of products, could incorporate Metaio’s intellectual property to differentiate its products.

This could give Apple a jump on rivals who are working to develop augmented reality semiconductors but remain at least 18 to 24 months away from delivery, the analyst said.

This technology was co-developed with ST-Ericsson, the former joint venture between mobile network equipment maker Ericsson and chipmaker STMicroelectronics.

Potential applications using Metaio’s low-power consumption technology could include mobile handsets and/or smart-glasses, Sorrell speculated. In mobile phones, the Apple-Metaio combination could pose a challenge to current market leader Qualcomm, which owns augmented reality maker Vuforia.

The roots of Munich-based Metaio go back to German carmaker Volkswagen, where Thomas Alt, its co-founder and chief executive, began developing augmented-reality applications in 2000.

- Reuters