Is Apple developing augmented-reality glasses in Boulder?

BOULDER — Apple Inc., like all technology firms, is often secretive about new products it’s developing. The Cupertino, California-based computing giant has certainly been tight-lipped about what it’s up to in its new Boulder offices since announcing plans to expand operations in the city a year ago. 

A screenshot from a W.W. Reynolds marketing video available on YouTube shows an aerial view of the office space at 5360 Sterling Drive.

Could Apple’s cloak-and-dagger local operations be related to the firm’s not-so-secret-anymore push to develop augmented-reality glasses? Perhaps.

In 2018, Apple quietly acquired Akonia Holographics LLC, a Longmont startup that produces lenses for AR glasses. A source with knowledge of the firm’s Boulder business dealings recently speculated that Apple is furthering Akonia’s AR work at its new 5360 Sterling Drive office space. 

Few details were available in August 2018 when Reuters first reported the Akonia acquisition. Terms of the deal were not disclosed and company representatives, including CEO and co-founder Ken Anderson, did not grant interviews. 

Likewise, Apple wasn’t particularly forthcoming about the deal, providing Reuters a statement that read: “Apple buys smaller companies from time to time, and we generally don’t discuss our purpose or plans.”

In the time since the acquisition, Akonia has gone silent. The company’s website was taken down soon after the sale, according to web archives. Akonia’s phone is disconnected and the firm’s business registration with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office was relinquished earlier this year, an indication that Akonia’s operations may now be fully folded into Apple. Boulder County public records show Apple is the current occupant of Akonia’s Longmont office space on Miller Drive. 

Apple has ignored multiple requests for comment by BizWest, and Anderson, who serves as the president of the Colorado Photonics Industry Association, could not be reached Wednesday morning.

According to multiple media reports last month, Apple plans to release its first AR headset in 2022 and a smaller pair of AR glasses in 2023.

Here’s what BizWest knows about Akonia and the firm’s work:

The company was formed in 2012, using intellectual property acquired from the former InPhase, which its lead investor, Acadia Woods Partners, purchased in March of that year.

In August 2012, Akonia raised a Series A funding round that year of more than $11 million, according to Crunchbase.

Akonia initially sought to develop holographic data storage platforms but soon transitioned to building smartglass display technology.

By 2016, Venture Beat reported the company had grown to 20 employees and received 165 patents.

Akonia’s flagship piece of lens technology was a light-weight, transparent display called the HoloMirror that could be used as the eyepiece in an AR system.  

Here’s what BizWest knows about Apple presence in Boulder:

Apple announced plans to expand operations in Boulder nearly a year ago but has been silent about those plans since. BizWest learned in November that the technology giant was operating out of the Sterling Drive offices. The firm has leased the entire roughly 40,000-square-foot space. Apple has renovated it to meet its specifications, according to Boulder building permits.

Apple has declined in the past to disclose specific employee counts for its Boulder offices, but has provided a range of 100 to 250 employees. That headcount could jump to 250 to 500 by 2022.

Last month, New Jersey-based real estate investor Ivy Realty sold the 20-year-old Sterling Drive office building to New York investment outfit Fred Alger Management LLC for $15 million. Brokers with Newmark Knight Frank represented Ivy in the deal. Representatives for Alger could not be reached. 

Earlier this year, Ivy bought adjacent commercial properties 5300 and 5305 Sterling for $8.75 million. Those buildings are occupied by MKS Instruments Inc. but could provide additional space for Apple should the current tenants vacate. 

BOULDER — Apple Inc., like all technology firms, is often secretive about new products it’s developing. The Cupertino, California-based computing giant has certainly been tight-lipped about what it’s up to in its new Boulder offices since announcing plans to expand operations in the city a year ago. 

A screenshot from a W.W. Reynolds marketing video available on YouTube shows an aerial view of the office space at 5360 Sterling Drive.

Could Apple’s cloak-and-dagger local operations be related to the firm’s not-so-secret-anymore push to develop augmented-reality glasses? Perhaps.

In 2018, Apple quietly acquired Akonia Holographics LLC, a Longmont startup that produces lenses for AR glasses. A source with knowledge of the firm’s Boulder business dealings recently speculated that Apple is furthering Akonia’s AR work at its new 5360 Sterling Drive office space. 

Few details were available in August 2018 when Reuters first reported the Akonia acquisition. Terms of the deal were not disclosed and company representatives, including CEO and co-founder Ken Anderson, did not grant interviews. 

Likewise, Apple wasn’t particularly forthcoming about the deal, providing Reuters a statement that read: “Apple buys smaller companies from time to time, and we generally don’t discuss our purpose or plans.”

In the time since the acquisition, Akonia has gone silent. The company’s website was taken down soon after the sale, according to web archives. Akonia’s phone is disconnected and the firm’s business registration with the…