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Magic Leap Allows a Peek Into Its Crazy-Cool AR World

By Quinten Plummer
Mar 24, 2015 5:00 AM PT
magic-leap-augmented-reality-game

Its 90-second promo video showcasing its augmented reality product got the Web talking, but Magic Leap itself isn't quite ready to discuss its AR headset.

Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz, who gave a TED talk in a mock spacesuit in 2012, was scheduled to present last week at another TED talk in Vancouver, where he was expected to reveal what his company has up its sleeve. The company pulled out a few days ahead of the presentation, but it left the tech world with a teaser trailer for the time being.

Magic Leap's YouTube video showcases an AR game being played on a working prototype of the headset.

Though some may not believe it, Magic Leap said the game is in fact real.

"It's time to bring magic back into the world," is the company's mantra.

What's Out of the Hat So Far

Magic Leap's take on augmented reality was born of the philosophy that computing should be shaped around humans. That line of thinking led to its Dynamic Digitized Lightfield Signal technology, which is being orbited by new software, sensors, processors, and at least one headset.

Digital Lightfield is a biometric technology that Magic Leap is developing with the goal of creating digital objects that are indistinguishable from items in the real world.

The current team, according to Magic Leap, is composed of storytellers, rocket scientists, artificial intelligence gurus, software ninjas, computing hobbits, movie freaks, mathematical artists, whole-earthers, psychedelic physicists, people people and music lovers.

While Magic Leap is using illusory language and its product remains elusive -- for now -- the company has acquired the funding necessary to deliver on its promise of a cinematic AR experience. Magic Leap last fall announced that it had secured US$542 million in series B funding.

Google led Magic Leap's second round of funding, and Qualcomm pitched in via its venture arm. A number of individual investors have put their money behind Magic Leap as well.

No Mirage

By some accounts, Magic Leap is years away from a consumer release and, like other AR tech, it may appear to some consumers as a mirage that's constantly miles ahead.

However, in the related virtual reality market, there's plenty happening. Samsung's Gear VR and Google's cheap Cardboard VR are already available. New headsets could arrive this fall if SteamVR and HTC's Vive VR stay on course.

Even though a VR product might attract mainstream interest before a consumer version of an AR headset does, there's a shorter path to success for the latter, according Dennis Wingo, CEO of Skycorp.

The 36-year-veteran of the computer and aerospace industries has worked with Google Glass in an effort to integrate its AR tech with the International Space Station.

"AR is in its early stages of growth now, and in 10 years we will wonder what we did without it," Wingo told TechNewsWorld. "VR has a different pathway to success, but it still gets perfected in the business environment and then the successes there are leveraged into the consumer world."

Regardless of which visual computing technology experiences widespread adoption first, one won't necessarily dominate the market and leave the other locked out, according to Tony Massimini, chief of technology at Semico Research.

Along with a possible gulf between the two technologies in prices, with VR for the most part poised to be more expensive, different use cases should help them each find its own niche, he told TechNewsWorld.

VR delivers experiences that are meant to completely immerse wearers, while AR seeks to serve up information as its users need it, Massimini said.

"I think you're looking at different classes of use, and I don't think that one necessarily precludes the other -- I think they may even complement the other," he suggested. "Also, if someone's working on VR, they're going to try to leverage their technology and use it in AR."


Quinten Plummer is a longtime technology reporter and an avid PC gamer who explored local news for a few years, covering law enforcement and government beats, before returning to writing about things run by ones and zeros and the people who make them. If it pushes pixels or improves lives, he wants to learn all he can about it.


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