Make the Leap

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.

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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.

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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.

 

References

https://www.wired.com/2016/04/magic-leap-vr/

https://www.wareable.com/ar/magic-leap-need-to-know-release-date-price-specs-features

6 comments

  1. Good stuff here Roark! Thanks for the mention in the article. I think that Magic Leap could make some of the coolest strides in VR/AR gaming that we’ve seen in a while. I hope that with so much money and so much confidence that they will hit the scene in an amazing and almost unbelievable way. I hope that it’s very Ready Player One esque. Go in the dark for a while and come out with something crazy. If this company is able to really dial in on what it means to make a great AR or VR game then I think they could make it big. HTC Vive and Oculus have definitely showed that they want to be one of the biggest players in the VR space, but no player other than Pokemon Go has really tried to make a big push for AR.

    What I find to be odd about Magic Leap is that they’ve played mostly off the mystery of their product. Are they trying to stay secretive because so many people are skeptical of this technology and they hope that by hitting the scene with an amazing product after such secrecy everyone will want to buy one? I just hope that they don’t get lost in their technology without consulting the customer. To see an amazing technology like this be untouchable by most because of a high price point would be so disappointing.

  2. interested to see how Magic Leap will adapt to a landscape that already has major players. hopefully their headseats are so above and beyond that they can out pace current headseats and VR products on the market. i feel like apple is having this problem now with the homepod, since so many already have the echo with amazon.
    Glad you brought up the privacy point and security, we talk a bit in my philosophy class about how these technologies and digital innovations are created without designers really thinking of the broader and potential implications. it’s up to consumers and users to really address how to protect their privacy and how to push for change!

  3. When we were out at Google, I was surprised to learn that AR was a bigger push for them than VR. Having seen some people completely get sick/ fall after using VR, I’m wondering if the Magic Leap approach will be better.

  4. This was an interesting post! I am still mesmerized by the fact that it was able to receive more than 2 billion dollars of funding despite their lack of physical products compares to its competitors… Just to compare, startups receive about 5 million dollars for their A round of funding, and are lucky to exit at about 70 million in 5 years. Simply looking at that comparison, I seriously wonder what confidence investors have on Magic Leap to have spent so much money on their potential.

    At the same time, this further shows that investors who are interested in VR/AR rather focus on the company potential in having a unique technological function than physical products offered. If the technology is there, implementing it into a physical device doesn’t seem to yield much difficulty, I suppose. I am still surprised that the video they shot with their technology was back in 2015, 3 years ago from now. The illustration looked exactly like a movie, a literal “mixed reality” between real humans and imagination. I also believe that whichever company has the capability to fully capture VR into reality will dominate the market as a monopoly, with many other small companies following its footsteps and eventually contribute their R&D to the monopoly via M&A activities.

  5. Your last paragraph there gave me some pretty serious Black Mirror vibes! In particular an episode called “The Entire History of You”, which takes place in a near future where most of the population has their eyes outfitted with cameras that record and store your every waking moment. Even if the world that’s being recorded with Magic Leap is technically virtual, it’s scary to think of the lines blurring between reality and virtual reality. Paranoia aside, the product is very intriguing, and I’m particularly interested that they’ve avoided the allure of Silicon Valley up to this point. If they do end up a success it could a signal to other companies that location isn’t a necessary ingredient to success.

  6. Cool post. I blogged about VR/AR earlier this semester and I’ve also read somewhere that Magic Leap is partnering with the NBA to bring VR to viewers. Should definitely be pretty cool to see. As you alluded, the anticipation for the mainstream adoption to VR/AR is immense. There is so many potential application for Magic Leap and VR/AR in general but moving forward, I think it’s important to think what we should be doing with VR/AR rather than thinking what we can do with it. I think that sometimes we think accomplishing what is most impressive or most “Black Mirroresque” is often we immediately strive for when working with exciting new technologies. We need to think about what the world needs like solving humanitarian problems. I’m not sure what but I think it’s something to think about.

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