Magic Leap, the Florida startup that has made huge promises for its augmented reality technology, has finally unveiled images and a somewhat vague release plan for the first version of its product. And, according to hands-on reports, the darn thing works.
The Magic Leap One: Creator Edition will be released in 2018, and is targeted at developers and early-adopting consumers. No pricing or specific release date has been set, but Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz has described the product as “a premium artisanal computer,” implying a hefty price tag. (Abovitz spoke at Fortune’s 2016 Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen; see his remarks here.)
In addition to the sleek Lightwear goggles, the Magic Leap One includes a palm-size processor worn at the waist, and a slim controller.
Magic Leap’s technology is distinct from virtual reality headsets including the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Instead of a closed headset that recreates an entire virtual world in 3-D, Magic Leap uses what it calls digital light field signals to layer characters or other features over a user’s view of the real world.
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Magic Leap has been met with both massive expectations and considerable skepticism while working to perfect its technology. It has raised a staggering $1.9 billion in funding, including a recent $502 million round including Google and Alibaba.
But Magic Leap has also been roundly slammed for overhyping its own potential. Its early patent applications were found to include UI concepts copied from science fiction films. In early 2015, the startup released a video that seemed to demonstrate impressive technology, but that it later clarified was just a “concept” produced with special-effects team Weta Workshop. In late 2016, a report by The Information concluded that “Magic Leap may have oversold what it can do.”
That skepticism isn’t entirely dispelled by the newly-announced product, but a handful of journalists have at least seen the technology in action. Brian Crecente of Rolling Stone got to use a Magic Leap One, and described a “startling” experience that “didn’t look indistinguishable from reality, [but] it was close.”