After six years of massive capital raises and persistent secrecy around the project, Magic Leap CEO Tony Robovitz has unveiled the first generation of its mixed reality technology, Magic Leap One™, which is set for a 2018 release.
Magic Leap One™ consists of three components:
- The Lightwear™ is the headset, which currently looks like goggles.
- The Lightpack™ is the powerful, hockey puck-sized mini-computer that can clip onto the user’s pockets.
- Control is the controller that provides one of the means of navigating the device’s user experience.
One of the pillars of Magic Leap’s core design is the digital lightfield signal. The analog lightfield signal is all of the light bouncing off of objects within a particular environment. Our vision involves the reception of this signal by the eye which is then processed by the visual cortex. Robovitz sought to create a method for users to experience digital objects in a manner that blended seamlessly with our visual perception.
Other means of experiencing three-dimensional virtual objects, such as virtual reality, are designed around stereoscopic technology, the fundamentals of which date back to the first stereoscopes of the 1830s. Two images, each at slightly different angles, are perceived at the same time, creating a 3D effect. This is usually an uncomfortable experience with prolonged usage since it is dissonant with how our visual perception operates.
While many of the virtual and mixed reality technologies out there are compelling, the space has been limited by lack of content. Magic Leap’s mission is to bring creativity to the forefront of its platform, turning the shared digital lightfield signal into a vast medium of “co-creation,” a term often used by Robovitz to describe the technology. This is indicative by the hiring of science fiction grand master Neal Stephenson as “Chief Futurist” and collaborations with various creative groups such as Icelandic band Sigur Ros for an interactive soundscape, MadeFire for mixed reality comics, and Weta Workshop for a robot invasion game.
The target consumer base for the Magic Leap One™ are early adopters, developers, and creatives looking to experiment with a new medium. Later iterations of the hardware will make the hardware more compact, enhance the field of view, and allow for improved functionality for outdoor environments.
With the projections of the AR/VR industry placing the market at the hundreds of billions by 2021 and with a global spending projection of $17.8 billion in 2018 alone, Magic Leap will face steep competition from Apple and other heavy-hitters developing their own AR platforms in a race for widespread consumer adoption.
Image via Magic Leap.com