The distinctive about these glasses is that they exist at all—that Magic Leap has finally come forth with evidence that its technology will have form.
THE LAST TIME I visited Magic Leap founder Rony Abovitz at the company’s secretive Florida offices, he told me about the time he met Beaker, the meeping beeping scientist on the Muppet Show. Not the character Beaker, but the real Beaker.
The guy was a film director at creator Jim Henson’s studio, Abovitz explained enthusiastically.
“He’s tall, he looks just like Beaker and he acts like Beaker! You’re like, ‘How do I know him?’ And then you find out he was the influence behind Beaker, and it all sort of makes sense,” he said. Of the many celebrities Abovitz has met, Beaker was clearly a highlight.
“By the way,” he said. “The Muppet Show plus Star Warsequals Magic Leap in my head.”
After all, Microsoft began shipping its HoloLens headset to developers nearly two years ago, in March of 2016.
By this point, tech’s big five all have their own version of an augmented reality Manhattan Project on the hunch that the next big computing platform will emerge from the fusion of physical and digital assets through a set of goggles.
The goggles, dubbed the Magic Leap One, come with a controller and battery pack the size of my palm, and have a steampunk vibe. They’re sleek, with bug-eyed lenses, and a Rolling Stone preview suggests they’ll be expensive.
Truthfully, there’s not much more information available. Developers haven’t tried them, so it’s impossible to compare them directly to other available prototypes.
Right now, this is enough. As important as this next computing platform will be—Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe has even called artificial reality the final platform—to the way we conduct business, entertain ourselves, and generally communicate, it is many years out.
For AR goggles to take off, computing power must advance, batteries must shrink, and we must design the new applications that will give us reason to want to purchase a pair for ourselves. Only then will we have a market—or more likely, many types of markets—for this technology.
Magic Leap is among a small group of companies that have the resources and backing to develop products for this future. It has raised $1.9 billion so far, having closed its most recent round earlier this fall.
Board members include Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Alibaba executive chairman Joe Tsai. The company has strong ties to Hollywood, and Steven Spielberg is reportedly an investor.
It has inked entertainment-focused partnerships like one with Lucasfilm’s ILMxLAB (Magic Leap hired ILM cofounder John Gaeta in October). Abovitz sold a medical robotics company in 2013 for $1.65 billion.
Which brings us back to Abovitz’s office.
Each memento has a story, which Abovitz tends to recount in Star Warsmetaphors and with regular references to Charlie Bucket’s golden ticket. Abovitz is a very different type of leader than the set of California CEOs rushing headlong toward tech’s future.
His friends and colleagues describe him as a person with a heart that is big and soft and full.
(Sometimes, too much so. As a manager, he shies away from conflict.) The science fiction he’s always spinning has happy endings.
This prototype is a mere step on the road to an even more powerful computing breakthrough.
“Magic Leap is just functioning as training wheels to begin to unlock that.” Someday, he explained, we won’t need goggles to map digital assets to reality;
we’ll be able to program our brains directly.
It’s possible that augmented reality will be the most important computing shift of our lifetime.
Yes, the company’s a little weird.
Sure, it’s following an unconventional path. https://www.wired.com/f31a3691-22c5-41c8-80bc-692ec2ef3084