Magic Leap is plotting virtual reality’s death

The secretive company wants to bring mixed reality into your living room.

Meryl D'Souza June 28, 2016

Magic Leap is one of the most hyped yet secretive start-ups in the world. So secretive that no one knows what the company is up to, despite it being valued at around $2 billion.

Earlier this year, the start-up that chooses to call Florida its home as opposed to moving to tech hubs like Silicon Valley, raised about $793.5 million in what may be the largest C-round of financing in history.

That number is notable because Magic Leap has not even released a beta version of its product and refuses to set a time-frame for when it will be open to developers, let alone the public. To date, investors have funnelled $1.4 billion into it.

Along with Samsung’s Gear VR and HTC’s Vive, all the other big players from Silicon Valley and the world are investing heavily in virtual reality. Wired claims Facebook has over 400 people working on VR alone. But apparently none of them come close to what Magic Leap is working on. Renowned tech journalist Kevin Kelly calls Magic Leap’s technology an urban reality so enticing that some people never leave it. 

We first told you a bit about Magic Leap about a year ago. Still it its infancy back then, the startup convinced Google to ditch its Glass Explorer programme and invest in its vision for the future. But here’s the thing, a year on from that story, still no one knows what Magic Leap is exactly or what it does.

The only thing we do know from its YouTube channel is that unlike its competitors who are striving to change the world with VR, Magic Leap is making mixed reality (MR) its mission.

Until the day we invent time machines, the tech world has three realities besides the real world: Virtual; where you’re transported to another world entirely. Augmented; where the real world is overlaid with a layer of digital content. Mixed; where the real world is responsive to and integrated with a virtual world.

About two months ago, Magic Leap gave us a glimpse of how Mixed Reality would work.  During the two minutes and seven seconds of footage, the clip superimposes holographic technology over the real world and virtual reality (VR).

There is no narration and the wearable device is never seen – possibly because it isn’t in its final form yet – but the footage claims to be real. A caption at the bottom reads: "Shot directly through Magic Leap technology on April 8, 2016. No special effects or compositing were used in the creation of this video (except for this text)." 

Perhaps Magic Leap will detour into the world of filmmaking before ending up on our shelves. As if to prove that the company is not simply dealing with theoretical and possibly mystical technology, CEO Rony Abovitz announced a partnership with LucanFilm and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM).

As part of the announcement, the companies also revealed a new mixed reality video starring real-life Star Wars holograms of R2-D2 and C-3PO, shot through Magic Leap’s technology - see above. 

Don’t be disheartened though. This isn’t just for filmmakers. With Magic Leap opening its technology to a handful developers that include Twilio (to seamlessly integrate texting and call notifications into the MR platform) it’s only a matter of time till the Florida–based company delivers. How long though? That’s the $1.4 billion question.