The device, which was created in secrecy for six years and received billions of investments from Google and Tencent, was first shown to the world.
The American company Magic Leap for the first time presented a version of its glasses of augmented reality, work on which has been going on since 2011. During this time, the largest companies invested in the startup, which found the device revolutionary. At the same time, the creation of the headset took place in the privacy mode: only rumors of breakthrough technologies of projecting augmented reality directly onto the retina reached potential buyers.
About Magic Leap is still little is known. But the photos of the real device and the stories of journalists about the first impressions in a few days gave more information than appeared in recent years of development.
Years of Secrets
The startup Magic Leap was founded in 2011 by American Rony Abovitz, who was engaged in the development of surgical robots, but in 2013 he sold it for 1.6 billion dollars. After that, he concentrated on a new area – augmented reality, although many other developers at the same time were engaged in VR-helmets.
Forbes magazine, speaking with Abovits, noted that for Magic Leap the main thing is that glasses do not interfere with the user to interact with the real world. For this, the developers decided to project images of virtual objects directly onto the retina to the headset owner using a special optical system.
Objects in turn should interact with the outside world. This was shown in the first demos from the “normal day at the office”: the owner of Magic Leap launched a game in which you have to shoot at opponents who get out of the walls and can hide behind “real” barriers.
The Magic Leap team did not plan to stop at games. Abovitz called his device “the new generation of computers” and showed how it can change the desktop or visualize the virtual assistant.
Public information about the glasses of augmented reality came only from Abovitsa: all the main work was done in secrecy. Forbes journalists noted that for a few years few people from outside the company saw the device with their own eyes, and even less understood how it works. After demonstrating the first applications, users were forced to sign such a number of non-disclosure documents that “hardly allowed to recognize the existence of the company Magic Leap.”
According to Western media, the startup was close to presenting points in the fall of 2015. But for an unknown reason this did not happen. By this time more than 800 people worked in Magic Leap.
Faith of investors and journalists
Over the years of development, the startup Magic Leap did not show its product to the public, limiting itself to rare demos. This was enough to attract 1.9 billion investments from large technology companies. Since 2014 in Magic Leap invested Google, Alibaba, JP Morgan, as well as funds Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins.
In The Verge noted that the success of the first round of investment can be explained by the hype on VR-helmets: at the same time Facebook acquired the makers of Oculus Rift points for $ 2 billion. But Magic Leap continued to receive funds during the following years, when the augmented and virtual realities began to pay less attention.
According to the authors of The Verge, this does not mean that the glasses will appear at all: no one even knows what the investors’ money is being spent on. Also, The Information, citing its sources, reported that the creators of Magic Leap actually faked the very first video with a demonstration of the work of glasses. According to the publication, the video was produced by a company that made special effects for the films “Mad Max: Road of Fury” and “Hobbit”.
However, over the years of development, Magic Leap several times provided access to a prototype device to individual journalists who spoke highly of its work. One of them was the former editor-in-chief of Wired Kevin Kelly (Kevin Kelly), who called the glasses “the most impressive VR-technology” of all existing.
In 2017, Magic Leap interrupted the lull: in the autumn, Bloomberg journalists reported that the startup will issue a small batch of AR-points in March 2018. And in December, Abovits said that in the near future the company will share “fun and cool things.” One of these “pieces” was cooperation with the Icelandic group Sigur Rós, whose participants tested the device in 2013.
Magic Leap together with them created a musical application Tónandi, to try which invited the editor of the publication Pitchfork Mark Hogan (Marc Hogan). Hogan in the material about the meeting described mainly impressions of “musical sensations”, but from the story you can learn and a few technical details. For example, that there will be a sensor for reading gestures, and objects from augmented reality will adapt to the terrain.
On December 20, the startup updated the site and for the first time in six years showed the device. The first version, called Magic Leap One, is intended for “creators” (Creators Edition) – developers who want to develop applications for glasses. Devices will start shipping in early 2018.
For the story of Magic Leap, the company invited Brian Crecente, the author of Rolling Stone, to his office in Florida, who tested several demo applications. For example, a journalist ran several screens in glasses and “hung” them in various places – they did not vanish. In another demo, he installed a four-way television in the center of the room: each side showed its own channel.
At one point, a door appeared in the wall, and a woman came into the room through her. The level of detail was impressive, although I would not have confused it with the present. […] Moving around, I noticed that the woman is watching me. The cameras inside the device allowed her to establish eye contact with me. It was a little scary, and I looked away.
Crescente noted that the demos worked well: glasses did not have performance problems. But, according to him, the viewing angle of the device is limited, as in similar technology Microsoft HoloLens: objects of augmented reality appear in a certain area before your eyes. But at Magic Leap this zone is more, than at competitors.
What does Magic Leap look like?
Judging by the official photos, Magic Leap consists of three components: the glasses themselves called Lightwear, Controller controller and external Lightpack system, which is attached to the belt and connected to the headset with a wire.
- Lightwear – edition of TechCrunch drew attention to the fact that the headset is much larger than usual glasses, but at least it is not a full-fledged helmet, from which the head can get tired. Crescente confirmed that the device is quite easy: according to him, it will be sold in two sizes. The Verge, because of an unusual appearance, called this part of Magic Leap “sunglasses from cyberpunk”;
- Lightpack – Abovitz called the device, which looks like a CD player, “an autonomous computer.” The developer said that the power of Lightpack is comparable to the MacBook Pro. He also called Lightware a “computer”. The size of the system is different from the photos published by Business Insider in February 2017: then it was a kind of backpack, which was attached to points by wire;
- Control – the very device for managing gestures, which was told by the editor Pitchfork. It has several buttons and a touchpad for convenience. Crescente added that you can control your glasses in other ways, such as voice, head tilt, and direction.
According to Abovits, by the time the Magic Leap One is released, some details may differ from those presented on December 20. The price of the device “for the creators” is still kept secret.