Apple Inc. has acquired Akonia Holographics LLC, a six-year-old maker of displays for augmented-reality glasses, as the iPhone-maker explores a foray into the burgeoning field.

Apple, seeking a breakthrough product to succeed the iPhone, is said to be prepping to ship an AR headset or device as early as 2020. Akonia’s “HoloMirror” technology is designed to project full-color images onto the transparent glass lenses of augmented-reality headsets, according to its website, a capability that will dovetail with the U.S. giant’s own efforts. Apple confirmed the deal, first reported by Reuters, via the typical statement it uses to verify acquisitions of smaller startups.

While virtual reality immerses the user in a digital world, augmented reality is intended to overlay visuals and data onto the real one -- allowing users for instance to look up details on objects and buildings in their field of view, or a mechanic to scan repair instructions. It’s been touted as having wider mass-market appeal than VR, and Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has talked up its prospects on several occasions.

The U.S. giant will have to contend however with a number of rivals, including Amazon.com Inc. and Google, also exploring future applications for the nascent technology.