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Apple Acquires Augmented Reality Firm Metaio

Tech giant Apple has acquired Metaio, a company that creates tools for authoring, rendering and managing augmented-reality applications, for an undisclosed sum, according to legal documents filed in Germany.

A notarized registration form filed in a Munich court indicates that 29,121 Euros (around $32,000) in shares held by Metaio were transferred to Apple last week. Based in Munich, Metaio was founded in 2003. The company grew out of an internal project at Volkswagen to provide specifications and instruction manual overlays on images of different auto parts.

No further details have been provided by either Apple or Metaio about the transaction. However, the reported acquisition indicates that Apple, like Google and Microsoft, sees a growing market opportunity in virtual/augmented-reality technology.

Software ‘No Longer Available for Purchase’

Red flags suggesting possible changes pending at Metaio began appearing earlier this year when the company cancelled its InsideAR conference in San Francisco. The company’s Web site features prominent notices stating that its products and services are “no longer available for purchase.”

Customers who have already purchased Metaio software will be able to access downloads through December 15 of this year, according to the Web site, while “active cloud subscriptions will be continued until expiration.” The site adds that e-mail support will be discontinued after June 30.

Metaio’s products include Metaio Creator, an augmented-reality authoring tool; the Metaio SDK framework; Metaio Cloud; and a suite that includes Cloud, Creator, the SDK deployment license, cloud storage space and the Metaio Continuous Visual Search (CVS) 1,000.

In 2012, Metaio was described in a Reuters report as “one of the leading companies in the rapidly growing augmented reality (AR) industry.” The article described augmented reality as “the eighth mass medium, after print, recordings, cinema, radio, television, Internet and mobile phones.”

‘Huge Shake-Up’

Metaio’s departure as a standalone company means a “huge shake-up” for its developer community, according to Sam Murley, an Iowa-based developer who focuses on enterprise augmented reality.

“(T)housands of applications using the Metaio platform will have to be migrated over to another augmented reality platform such as Qualcomm’s Vuforia, Layar, Wikitude or DAQRI,” Murley said earlier this week in a blog post on LinkedIn. “Some industry leaders have built fully customized platforms on top of Metaio’s core capabilities and they are looking at major rework as well to keep things running smoothly for their product.”

Augmented and virtual reality are getting a lot of attention from other companies like Microsoft and Google, as well. At its developers’ conference last month, Microsoft unveiled the HoloLens, a Windows 10-powered wearable that lets users turns apps into holographic images that overlay images of the real world.

And Google last year led a $542 million round of funding for a startup called Magic Leap that’s working on an augmented-reality biomimetic offering called Dynamic Digitized Lightfield Signal.

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