How can Magic Leap embody the future of augmented reality?

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The mystery surrounding the start-up Magic Leap is gradually lifting. After many fantasies, reality is coming back to the fore and the company is letting us discover very briefly its augmented reality glasses device. A first launch for developers is planned for 2018.  


Small start-up will become big!

On 15 March 2015, the small American start-up Magic Leap released a video on YouTube showing a short clip of an augmented reality technology they are developing. The tone is set: the visual rendering is magnificent and the promises shown are colossal. With this video, the small studio went from almost complete anonymity to an unprecedented media rise. The American tech world is in turmoil and 9 months later, the start-up has already raised 1 billion dollars in funding, propelled by investors such as Alibaba and Google. As early as 2016, partnerships were signed with Disney, notably for the Star Wars licence. However, there is a problem with this incredible ambition: there is no overview of the material used and the videos only show very well-made special effects. Rumours are rife and criticism is rife around the Magic Leap mystery. At least that was the case until December 2017

video magic leap

Magic Leap gives birth to augmented reality glasses

Indeed, after years of announcement effects, ever more spectacular video clips and record-breaking fundraising, the American company unveiled its augmented reality medium on 20 December 2017. Called Magic Leap One, it takes the form of glasses with a "steampunk" design connected to a box that fits on the belt. A small controller is also included in the package. The whole thing will initially be sold as a development kit reserved for professionals.

Very little information is available about what the box contains. It is said to be a small, miniaturised, super-powered computer that can display 3D elements and detect the user's space and position. The helmet itself seems to be equipped with several cameras and sensors. One cannot help but think of Microsoft's Hololensmixed reality headset, which uses this type of 'all-embedded' format. The difference lies solely in Magic Leap 's proud ambition to make 3D elements appear perfectly integrated into reality. Indeed, before launching into a visualisation device, the start-up was already developing a system called "Lightfield" which imitates our visual perception and gives the user the illusion that virtual objects belong to the real world.

Magic Leap One headset

Examples of uses anticipated by the start-up.

All this is obviously to be taken with a grain of salt, because one thing is certain: It is difficult to predict the uses when an augmented or virtual reality device is released. The virtual realityfor example, was initially intended for video game players. Professionals have finally seized on it for various purposes: training, virtual tours or even home configurators. As we know, it is mainly the users who make the uses and not the companies that market the media.

Since the announcement of the release of their product, Magic Leap has already imagined several types of use in the more or less long term on its website. There are many similarities with Microsoft's Hololens.

First of all on retail. Magic Leap is betting on virtual shops in which you can walk around from home. The idea is not totally crazy since several brands already offer augmented reality catalogues on tablets and smartphones.

The start-up also sees its glasses on the heads of designers and other architects around the world. Indeed, the Magic Leap One seems to be shaping up perfectly for designers with 3D model sharing. There's nothing extravagant here either, as its cousin, the Hololens mixed reality headset, is already being used by Ford as a tool to help create projects, particularly to replace the classic clay models.

Video games are also in the spotlight. The American company had already released a video of a first-person shooter taking place on its own premises. The will is certainly there, but it seems difficult to have this type of use at first, especially as the price will surely not be adapted to a marketing for the general public.

Finally, there is talk of a new kind of social network using this technology to interact with other wearers of these augmented reality glasses. This use is in our opinion the least likely in the immediate future, but has the merit of proposing an ambitious goal.

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A difficult bet for Magic Leap

By setting the bar so high, Magic Leap is not leaving itself much room for manoeuvre. With more than 1.9 billion dollars in funds raised and videos that are more impressive than the others, the American start-up is widely expected to succeed. With these first glasses on the market, the company has two options: a revolution or a failure that will probably be fatal, given the high expectations.

One thing is certain, 2018 will be the year of mixed reality!

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