Apple bought the AR company behind the lenses in Nintendo’s ‘Mario Kart’ ride

Los Angeles-based startup Mira also has contracts with the US military.

Universal Studios / Nintendo

Apple has reportedly bought AR startup Mira. The Los Angeles-based company made the lens tech in the AR headsets for Super Nintendo World’s Mario Kart ride and has contracts with the US Air Force and Navy. You may also remember the Mira Prism, the company’s smartphone-based AR headset that Engadget tried in 2017. Of course, Apple finally revealed its long-rumored AR headset, the Vision Pro, at its WWDC 2023 keynote on Monday.

The Verge reports that the acquisition was verified through posts on the private Instagram account of Mira CEO Ben Taft and that Apple also confirmed it. It isn’t yet clear what Apple paid for the startup — or what its plans are with the company. (Talent and patents are logical candidates following the Vision Pro announcement.) The Verge also reports that Apple has brought at least 11 of Mira’s employees into the fold and that former design chief Jony Ive once advised the startup.

Image of a person (left) wearing a Mira industrial headset, watching a pop-up (augmented) video of a colleague on a video call in a working environment.

Mira’s Air Force contract reportedly involves supplying the company’s Prism Pro headset for pilots at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California, allowing them to display augmented equipment instructions. Meanwhile, the AR device built for Nintendo World portrays virtual characters and animations from the game to make the ride feel like you’re inside the classic racing title. (Another company, Jaycon Systems, worked with Universal Creative to develop the augmented reality headset using Mira’s lens technology.)

In his 2017 hands-on with the Mira Prism, Engadget’s Devindra Hardawar found the phone-based device to be surprisingly immersive for its price (relative to that era). “Even though I only had a few minutes with the Prism, I was impressed with what I saw,” he said. “I’m used to trying on headsets that are too expensive for most people to buy, so it was a bit of a shock that it worked at all.” Fast-forwarding to this week, Hardawar describes the Apple Vision Pro as “the best mixed reality (VR/AR) experience I’ve had yet, delivering an unparalleled sense of immersion” while holding out reservations. “And yet, it’s still just a VR headset, with many of the issues endemic to the entire category.”

Correction, June 7th, 2023, 12:13pm ET: An earlier version of this story suggested Mira was responsible for Mario Kart’s entire AR headset, rather than the lenses.