Apple buys AR technology company Metaio

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has added Metaio to its portfolio, which could add advanced augmented reality to its growing family of mobile devices.

The German software company's AR software helps create virtual showrooms and catalogs. Metaio is the source for Ikea's virtual product showroom and Audi's virtual owner's manual.

Mitsubishi Electric used Metaio's software to enable consumers to visualize products, such as air conditioners or heating units, in their own homes. The visual tool allowed Mitsubishi to reduce printing and sales costs while increasing product sales by $60 million in its first year, according to Metaio's Alexander Oser.

Oser demonstrated Metaio's technology and its applications at the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin in March.

Brands and merchants are teaming up to create augmented reality programs that let shoppers better visualize a product—such as the contents of a box of Legos sold at Toys R Us stores. Shoppers simply hold a box up to a kiosk and all the things that could be built with the box's contents begin to appear.

Augmented reality as part of visual search is being quickly adopted by retailers including Kroger's Food4Less, Macy's and Bed Bath & Beyond, which is using augmented reality in its newest wedding registry app.

It is unclear how Apple will use Metaio's technology. However, as the company further develops wearables, it's expected that AR will be a compelling and important feature, particularly when paired with another Apple-owned technology: three dimensional mapping by PrimeSense.

In 2013, Apple acquired PrimeSense, an Israeli sensor firm, for $345 million, according to AppleInsider. The addition of sensors with AR technology could create new mapping and gaming applications. Just about everything Apple does to further mobile development has consumer and, therefore, retail applications.

For more:
-See this Apple Insider story
-See this Reuters story

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