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posted by martyb on Friday June 21 2019, @05:35PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the now-you-see-it,-now-you-don't dept.

Secretive Magic Leap Says Ex-Engineer Copied Headset for China

Magic Leap Inc., a U.S. startup that makes a headset to project digital objects onto the real world, accused one of its former engineers of stealing its technology to create his own augmented reality device for China.

In a lawsuit filed Monday, Magic Leap alleges that Chi Xu, who left in 2016, exploited its confidential information to "quickly develop a prototype of lightweight, ergonomically designed, mixed reality glasses for use with smart phones and other devices that are strikingly similar" to the Florida-based startup's designs.

The lawsuit marks the latest accusation from an American firm of intellectual property theft by Chinese companies, a perennial sore point that's helped escalate tensions between the world's two largest economies. With more than $2 billion in financing, Magic Leap is one of the better-funded startups delving into so-called augmented or mixed reality, a technology that gives users the illusion that fantastical, three-dimensional digital objects exist in the physical world.

Many have accused Magic Leap of being vaporware. But now its precious vapors have been collected by people who could actually make something out of it.

Also at The Verge.

Previously: Magic Leap Bashed for Being Vaporware
Magic Leap Finally Announces a Product, But is It Still Vaporware?

Original Submission

Related Stories

Magic Leap Bashed for Being Vaporware 10 comments

A paywalled story by The Information — The Reality Behind Magic Leap — criticized Magic Leap for the company's $4.5 billion valuation and lack of shipping products. The company is working on an augmented reality product that may prove to be inferior to competing designs such as Microsoft's HoloLens:

In The Information article, Magic Leap is said to use cumbersome equipment in its demonstrations that is at odds with the elegant design of the sunglasses-like product the company said it intends to build. Instead of a sleek pair of shades and low-impact tethering to a small battery pack, the demonstration required a helmet-sized device called "WD3," or "wearable device three," leashed to a desktop computer that the reviewer described as displaying "jittery and blurry" imagery.

This is apparently the same gear that Magic Leap execs showed investors, such as Alibaba and Google, in the lead-up to its $793 million Series C round of funding earlier this year. Previously, the company had used a refrigerator-sized device known internally as "the Beast" in demonstrations, a piece of hardware offering visuals that may prove unattainable in smaller appliances, at least anytime soon.

The headset that The Information previewed, the WD3, is not the latest prototype, which is dubbed PEQ, or "product equivalent," as The Information notes. Though former employees told the tech news site that the PEQ spectacles use similar technology to Microsoft's HoloLens, Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz disputed the claim in the article and said it "already produced images with more depth that look better" than the $3,000 competitor.

The article also claims that a promotional video implied to be demonstrating the company's technologies was produced by a special effects studio instead.

Not to be confused with Leap Motion. Also at The Verge, CNBC, PC Magazine , and MIT.

Original Submission

Magic Leap Finally Announces a Product, But is It Still Vaporware? 4 comments

Magic Leap has announced an augmented reality/mixed reality display. The price is unknown, but Magic Leap says it will ship in 2018:

After more than three years, Magic Leap has unveiled what it describes as a "creator edition" of its augmented reality system. The Magic Leap One consists of a pair of oversized cyberpunk-y goggles, a puck-shaped external computer called a Lightpack, and a handheld controller. It's supposed to accept "multiple input modes including voice, gesture, head pose and eye tracking," and maps persistent objects onto the environment — "place a virtual TV on the wall over your fireplace and when you return later, the TV will be right where you left it," the site promises. An SDK is supposedly coming in early 2018, and the hardware is supposed to ship at some point next year.

Magic Leap invited Rolling Stone to try out some demos, which include virtual characters that can react to eye contact, a floating virtual comic book, and a virtual live performance using volumetric camera capture. The piece seems to refute rumors that Magic Leap was having difficulty shrinking its technology to goggle size while keeping performance up, saying that "there was no stuttering or slowdowns, even when I walked around the performance, up close and far away."

The "puck-sized" tethered computer is an interesting compromise. It doesn't look like it would hinder mobility that much (you could compare it to a Walkman plus headphones), and it's much smaller than "VR backpack" concepts. However, it could be a good sign that you should not be an early adopter of Magic Leap One (which is actually the ninth generation of their hardware internally, according to Rolling Stone).

Some still call it vaporware. There is no video footage of the device being worn, and images have been retouched to "edit out some sensitive IP".

Will it take privacy seriously?

Again, not to be confused with Leap Motion.

Also at BBC, Tom's Hardware, Road to VR, Engadget, BGR, 9to5Google.

Previously: Developers Race to Develop VR Headsets that Won't Make Users Nauseous
Magic Leap Bashed for Being Vaporware

Original Submission

Magic Leap's $2.6 Billion Bait and Switch 15 comments

Magic Leap's $2.6 billion bait and switch – TechCrunch:

Two years ago I attended an "Innovation in Immersive Storytelling" event at Industrial Light & Magic, featuring the Chief Game Wizard of Magic Leap. I should have known then, from all the strained corporate sorcery in that sentence, that their demise was inevitable. But in fact I went into that talk a Magic Leap skeptic, and came out ... less so.

Magic Leap drew in a lot of true believers over the years; $2.6 billion worth. Investors included Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins, Google (not Google Ventures — Google itself) and many many more. Sundar Pichai joined Magic Leap's board. And did they rave. I mean, it's a VC's job to rave about their portfolio companies, but this was different:

Now there is something new. Not just an order-of-magnitude more pixels or a faster frame rate, but – thanks to sensors and optics and mobile phone volumes and breakthroughs in computer vision – something I always dreamed of ... The product is amazing ... this is different

Bing Gordon of Kleiner Perkins.

It was incredibly natural and almost jarring — you're in the room, and there's a dragon flying around, it's jaw-dropping and I couldn't get the smile off of my face

Legendary Pictures CEO Thomas Tull

Legendary and a16z had previously invested in Oculus Rift. Tull even told TechCrunch "Magic Leap takes a completely different approach." This is especially interesting because when Magic Leap finally — finally, after 5 years and $1.6 billion — released a product, Oculus's Palmer Luckey wrote a truly scathing teardown of the Magic Leap One. Again, yes he would do so ... but the details are quite striking ...

They call it the "Lightwear". This is the part that has gotten the most hype over the years, with endless talk of "Photonic Lightfield Chips", "Fiber Scanning Laser Displays", "projecting a digital light field into the user's eye", and the holy-grail promise of solving vergence-accommodation conflict, an issue that has plagued HMDs for decades ... TL;DR: The supposed "Photonic Lightfield Chips" are just waveguides paired with reflective sequential-color LCOS displays and LED illumination, the same technology everyone else has been using for years, including Microsoft in their last-gen HoloLens. The ML1 is a not a "lightfield projector" or display by any broadly accepted definition

What happened to that "completely different approach?"

See also:


Original Submission

2020: The Year of AR? "$2.6 Billion Flop" Magic Leap Pivots to Enterprise 10 comments

In 2020, smart glasses may start looking totally normal

It doesn't pay to be an early adopter. Smart glasses maker North, which developed a pair of glasses called Focals earlier this year, has just announced an updated version for 2020. That means the first Focals, which displayed notifications via a retinal-projection technology that looked like a tiny pop-up window in one eye, are being discontinued, the company says.

The improved glasses promise to be 40% lighter and have 10 times the display resolution of the first version. "We spent the last year in the market learning how to build, sell and support smart glasses with our first-gen product, that we now will combine with over five years of research working on the technology upgrades in Focals 2.0," Steven Lake, North CEO, said in a press release.

Meanwhile, Magic Leap has struggled to move its Magic Leap One Creator Edition headsets despite over $2.6 billion in funding:

The Information today published an in-depth report about Magic Leap's state of affairs. Most notable is how it apparently only sold 6,000 Magic Leap One Creator Edition headsets in the first six months.

Priced at $2,295, buyers get a "Lightwear" headset that connects to a puck-shaped "Lightpack" computer worn around their waist. CEO Rony Abovitz reportedly had an initial goal of 1 million devices in the first year before settling with 100,000.

Magic Leap Gets $500 Million in Funding... Again 5 comments

Seven years after raising $542M at a $2B valuation, Magic Leap raises $500M at a $2B valuation

Magic Leap has had one hell of a journey, and to their credit, it seems investors are still addicted to giving them money.

The augmented reality startup announced today that they have raised $500 million at a $2 billion valuation from existing investors. The round echoes the terms of an October 2014 raise where Magic Leap raised $542 million at a reported $2 billion valuation. Quite a bit has happened in the meantime.

Curiously, Magic Leap decided not to actually disclose any of the specific investors participating in this latest fundraise. At this point, the company has raised $3.5 billion in total funding according to Crunchbase, meaning that most of the investors they've brought in haven't fared too well thus far.

Magic Leap 2 Teased For 2022 With Taller Field Of View

A blog post by Magic Leap CEO Peggy Johnson features an image, pictured below, comparing the field of view of the first and second generation AR headsets. While Magic Leap 2 seems to have small gains in horizontal field of view, vertically the augmentation of your vision should be far more significant with the new device. The company is said to have raised another $500 million to roll-out the second generation product focused toward business markets in 2022. "Select customers" are "already leveraging its capabilities through an early access program," according to the company.

Also at The Verge.

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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by jasassin on Friday June 21 2019, @07:17PM (5 children)

    by jasassin (3566) <> on Friday June 21 2019, @07:17PM (#858636) Journal

    I understand completely why Magic Leap is angry.

    But I find it ironic that they hired a Chinese person, and are surprised they had their IP stolen. Also, the fact they have almost three billion dollars and have a product available (pre-orders) after seven years and the Chinese have what sounds like a better product in three.

    Sounds good for consumers, and tough titty for Magic Leap.

    -- Key fingerprint = 0644 173D 8EED AB73 C2A6 B363 8A70 579B B6A7 02CA
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Runaway1956 on Friday June 21 2019, @11:27PM (2 children)

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 21 2019, @11:27PM (#858696) Homepage Journal

      Either they hired too many Chinese - or they didn't hire enough. Apparently, if they had hired MORE Chinese, they would have brought the product to market, and would be making money now.

      I'm with you on those mixed emotions. If the Chinese really are smarter than our people, maybe we need to shut up, sit down, and stop obstructing the Chinese?

      Let's go Brandon!
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by takyon on Friday June 21 2019, @11:56PM (1 child)

        by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Friday June 21 2019, @11:56PM (#858709) Journal

        If you can "steal" (copy) and face no consequences whatsoever, smart people will do just that.

        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
        • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 22 2019, @02:17PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 22 2019, @02:17PM (#858848)

          If you happily sit on certain secret tech for 7 years and do nothing with it while lavishly living the big life having sucked billions, sorry have no sympathy for you when cry "steal" because someone actually did something practical with such tech and in a fraction of that time.

          Trade secrets are like that, secrets, until are not. You could expect some pity from me should have used public patents instead.

          In someplaces they say that those who don't run... fly.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by TheRaven on Saturday June 22 2019, @09:10AM (1 child)

      by TheRaven (270) on Saturday June 22 2019, @09:10AM (#858799) Journal
      Remember, this is Magic Leap that we're talking about. They're very high on hype, but their rigged demos are worse than their competitor's shipping products.
      sudo mod me up
      • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 22 2019, @08:57PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 22 2019, @08:57PM (#858932)

        But, but, they had to rig their demos because the Chinese ate their homework!

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 21 2019, @08:42PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 21 2019, @08:42PM (#858654)

    Tilt Five is getting to market in under a year. []

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 24 2019, @04:30AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 24 2019, @04:30AM (#859252)

      Sure, no more vaporware brought to you from the very same people of former CastAR...

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 24 2019, @06:26AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 24 2019, @06:26AM (#859277)

    Magic Leap bosses were getting in the way of progress and this guy managed to make a better product once he went to China?

    Seems more like a US car manufacturer making a crappy electric car that can only "work" in demo conditions where it's wired to power station and then complaining about copying, trade secrets, etc when their engineer goes to China and makes an electric car can actually work and is not super overpriced.

    It's stuff like this that's why I think patents no longer work in many sectors. Someone can turn some vague ideas into a patent and then tax or obstruct those who can actually implement those ideas and bring it to market; thus slowing down actual progress.

    For example Sony can patent a contact lens that records video without actually having the tech that's close to implementing it: []
    And that just means they get to tax/block whoever that manages to actually build the thing years later.