You may all remember Tucker’s Wayfair presentation and the significant strides that they are taking to be an innovative digital company, and chief among those strides was the incorporation of VR/AR technology through a partnership with Magic Leap, the AR and VR hybrid that seeks to being this burgeoning technology to the forefront. You may be wondering to yourself, So what? There are dozens of VR and AR players constantly entering and leaving the space hoping to capitalize on its future effects as a part of live sports, interactive television shows, movies, video games, and even more immersive forms of escapism that don’t even exist yet. But Magic Leap believes it is very different from these other players and they not only have the oddities to prove it, but also the investors to show that NO ONE wants to miss out on this looming lucrative opportunity.
So far Google, Qualcomm, Warner Bros and Alibaba and many more number among the company’s numerous backers who believe that Magic Leap will be a major player within the VR and AR landscape. This is unique given their total lack of a physical product until quite recently; meanwhile their competitors at HTC, Oculus, etc have each released at least one, if not multiple iterations of VR/AR technology. But that’s not all, even more staggering than the names of the companies that have contributed to Magic Leap is the sheer monetary total of the investments, which to date is over 2 billion dollars. So to recap, a company with no physical product from which to base their business model managed to attract several blue chip investors all while promising the world.
Approximately 5 months ago, Magic Leap had no product offering on which they proposed to build their business. Their secretive founder and his company just continued to tout the mythic potential that their “mixed reality” (the company’s preferred description as opposed to “augmented reality”) would eventually offer while money poured in from every source across multiple industries. This, by the way, went on for approximately 6 years, a rare confidence that isn’t afforded to every promising technology, no matter how game changing.
But Magic Leap doesn’t solely rely on new technology to set themselves apart from the competition. Whereas many tech start-ups prefer the VC filled, technological community focused atmosphere of California’s Silicon Valley, Magic Leap has staunchly and stubbornly remained in its current location and the home of its founder, Rony Abovitz, in South Florida.
As Abovitz puts it, “Our brain is an amazing sensory computer. Magic Leap is just the pen and paper, the typewriter, or the canvas and brush for a power that people have had brewing in them since people first appeared. The real way to the future is biology.” This is why the headset will supposedly provide software developers with the most advanced playground to create new applications that previously had been unattainable. Magic Leap’s name, by the way, is in reference to the magical nature of the jump from the real world to the virtual that the company hopes to achieve. The virtual additions to the real world that its glasses and/or goggles will provide are being extolled as both completely seamless and intuitive to interact with, almost magically so.
These headsets will allow for not just theatrical entertainment but also a reconception of more mundane online tasks like web browsing and shopping. As the company sees it, there is limitless potential for the application of their technology given reimaginings of current technologies that they will help facilitate. Ways which we used to interact with TVs, smartphones, and any other technologies utilizing a display will all be subject to change.
This is all well and good, and if you are interested in Magic Leap further I encourage you to read & research more about it because feats that they are achieving border on the unbelievable. However I want to take a moment to appreciate the serious privacy issues that will need to be addressed as the infrastructure for VR and AR are progressively advanced and made more robust. The sheer size of the servers, the bandwidth, the processing power, the storage…it will need to be immense in order to render the kinds of worlds and environments that companies like Magic Leap hope to achieve. This all will facilitate a virtual surveillance state, where every happening in the virtual world is recorded and able to be accessed. Your behaviors, your actions, your gestures, and your choices are all monitored and as we all know, it WILL be exploited.
We don’t need to be scared by all of this, but we would do well to recognize that it is coming, and that if we want to avoid the rude awakening of our facebook data being used, we will need to overcome our amazement with the products when they arrive and think about whether as users, we are afforded the rights that demand and deserve.
Food for thought.