Magic Leap was recently the subject of a scorching article by Brian Merchant of Gizmodo, “The Magic Leap Con,” which dismissed the company as an overhyped vaporware vendor.
He’s neither the first nor the last critic of Magic Leap, whose name is synonymous with mixed reality. And the criticisms need to be heard. At the same time, Magic Leap has made great strides with mixed reality technology.
Mixed reality is a form of immersive reality, where digital content interacts with physical/real world objects in real-time and involves extensive interaction with the user. Mixed reality has a number of applications. For example:
- Two designers might be viewing the same digital product together and editing it together in real-time and aligning it to the physical space
- A surgeon might manage a complicated procedure by using mixed reality glasses to view a digital bank of 3D images, which the surgeon selects and overlays onto the patient to ensure more accuracy and precision. As steps are completed, the instruction disappears
Mixed reality requires special equipment such as a Microsoft HoloLens headset or Magic Leap One embedded with spatial computing and sound capabilities.
Magic Leap rocketed to fame with its highly publicized development of the Magic Leap One headset only to experience criticism when Magic Leap One finally hit the market. And indeed, it may feel like Magic Leap One has fallen short of the mark based on the hype we were previously hearing. And, frankly, mixed reality technology isn’t where I (or many of us) believe it could be and will be. But Magic Leap has still made solid strides in many areas. In fact, it’s amazing that Magic Leap has created a platform that can handle different elements of spatial computing.
The North Star
At the recent LEAP conference, Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz identified four “north star” ideas that drive the development of Magic Leap products:
Sensory field computing: devices that touch the senses.
Lifestream: sensors that see you as you move about spaces enriched with mixed reality.
Human-centered AI: the development of experiences that rely on AI to learn about your personal movements as opposed to generic content.
Layers: digital overlays within a city-scale space.
This north star is very compelling. But it’s also important to remember that it’s a north star. As such, these concepts are in relatively early development. But they beg some elaboration.
Sensory Field Computing and Lifestream
The focus of sensory field computing is sight and sound, which are the first two senses that transport a user (and tricks the brain). But I believe more could and should be done with the sense of touch, so as to trick the mind and the body. Imagine having gloves that can provide you with different sensations by applying pressure in certain spots to make it feel like someone’s holding your hand or that you’re gripping a rock while climbing.
But the north star is also achievable and sensible. Lifestream, for example, detects your movements. By contrast, virtual reality experiences lack sensors that keep you from walking into furniture or walls. For example, the Oculus Go and then there’s the tethered Oculus Rift which limits your range of movement to essentially a cube perimeter.
Human-centered AI is intriguing. To be sure, using AI to learn from your personal behaviors sounds creepy. But human-centered AI may help people also complete tasks in a more personalized fashion. As humans, we’ll have to weigh the utility of the AI against how invasive the information we’re sharing is. We’ll also need to consider how AI may be used other than to increase one’s own productivity and efficiency.=
Layers could develop in a number of ways, or degrees of reality that overtake (read: overlay) the real-world content with a digital version of reality. We also may see the development of layers that interact with the real-world element to help people do things such as build a toy castle for a child or build a birdhouse by overlaying which pieces to connect first or where to drill a hole.
There is definitely room for improvement and development – but the bottom line is that Magic Leap has developed an impressive platform and product that the company is still breathing life into.
A More Open Magic Leap
At LEAP, Rony Abovitz also demonstrated that Magic Leap is capable of adapting. He announced that Magic Leap’s Magicverse – the company’s platform for publishing mixed reality experiences – can be accessed by non-Magic Leap devices. The announcement demonstrates that Magic Leap wants to open up its experiences to a broader audience by increasing the platform’s compatibility with other channels.
In addition, opening up Magicverse gives folks a more accessible window into mixed reality as Magic Leap is developing the technology. While this window may feel more like a “lite” version of the immersive experience, it’s still a way to make progress with the technology and the immersive reality wave with consumers.
The value of an investment into this hardware and platform is based on the amount and quality of the content and to some degree the amount of virtual social interaction it enables to overall create immersive, beautiful, and engaging experiences. The other great value to creating this open spatial platform is that the more hands, eyes, and perspectives are on it, the more ideas will be spurred — and the bounds of the technology are tested and pushed further. In such a nascent space, this type of growth (which typically isn’t really tracked), is a beautiful and awe-inspiring evolution to follow.
For more insight into how to make mixed reality deliver value for your business, read our Executive Guide to Immersive Reality.