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The Future of AR is Now: #4 Magic Leap

‘The Future of AR is now’ is a series of blog posts in which four big companies that are developing AR wearables and technologies are aligned in a comparative research. This is the fourth and final post, make sure to read the posts about the Hololens, Meta and Project Tango as well.

Promises, promises

It all started so promising with big billion investors like Google and Alibaba Group. Magic Leap was said to be the most intriguing AR tech of the upcoming years, with a first investment of $4.5 billion. Everyone was hyped and couldn’t wait for all the amazing things Magic Leap would offer us in the nearby future. But we waited… And waited… And to this day, we are still waiting. Magic Leap still doesn’t have an actual shippable product.  Amazing videos were previewed stating they were actual recordings of their AR device, showing what we could expect from the close-mouthed company. As it turns out: the videos were all fake.

Magic Leap, the secretive and magical company every AR enthusiast has heard of, but never seen actual products of. Well, until last February, when a photo of one of their ‘potential’ portable AR device leaked. Shown in the photo was a person wearing a headset attached to a ‘computer backpack’ on his back. Many people were disappointed: Magic Leap had been promising cool and innovative products for years and would this photo really show their process? A device that still needs to be attached to a computer on your back, while devices such as Microsoft’s Hololens can be worn wireless? Created with billions of funding, this is it?

And yes, we at Dutch Rose Media were a little confused as well. Was this really what the fuss was all about? Well, Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz tweeted that the prototype shown in the pictures is “NOT what you think it is” and that Magic Leap is “back to heads down mode so they can finish and ship”. He tweeted this on February 12th and since then Magic Leap hasn’t actually released anything new. In the meanwhile, it is said that Magic Leap will release “its highly anticipated light-field smart glasses later this year“, but whenever Magic Leap is asked for more information, the company declines to comment.

Secretive or protective?

So yes, a lot of question marks! At the moment it’s not sure what exactly Magic Leap is building, when it will be released, who will be able to use it and if it becomes accessible worldwide. Recently I’ve spoken with a trendwatcher from TrendONE about the mysterious company and he told me a friend of his has tried ‘something’ from Magic Leap, but he couldn’t really tell me more about it, since it was all so unclear.

Magic Leap’s mysterious modus operandi can be seen as too secretive. After all, people get a bit frustrated whenever they know a big bulk of money is pumped into a company and no specific concept or product comes out. People feel betrayed whenever they’re told a promo video is genuine, when in reality it turns out to be fabricated. Magic Leap has deliberately chosen to be tight-lipped about their process and we understand this can make people doubtful.

But on the other side the current AR world is a real cowboy world. Big companies buying startup AR software companies, copying others’ AR features (remember when Snapchat was the only one with Face Filters?) and a lot of big names proclaiming they will release their very own AR product. So it’s no surprise that Magic Leap chooses to hide their process on purpose, thus preventing their ideas to be copied or even stolen.

(Magic Leap presents its technology in a miraculous fashion on their website. Image via Magic Leap website)

We might be surprised!

In a short exclusive documentary WIRED magazine filmed in 2016 with CEO Rony Abovitz he describes their desires to create a world that looks like you’re “dreaming with your eyes open”. It’s not even sure whether their AR device will be glasses at all, but they are planning on replacing all of our other screens with their technology. We at Dutch Rose Media believe the extension of the computer will be the first step of functional Augmented Reality, so that might be an accurate representation.

It is obvious Magic Leap isn’t going to share their plans with the big crowd for the time being. However, their talks and website indicate that they’re focused on making life easier AND fun, but in what specific form? We’ll have to wait and see until their actual release.

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