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.
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.
Developers Race to Develop VR Headsets that Won't Make Users Nauseous (2015)
Magic Leap Bashed for Being Vaporware (2016)
Magic Leap Finally Announces a Product, But is It Still Vaporware? (2017)
Magic Leap Opens Up Orders for $2,295 "Creator Edition" Augmented Reality Headset (2018)
Magic Leap Accuses Chinese Company of Copying Trade Secrets (2019)
2020: The Year of AR? "$2.6 Billion Flop" Magic Leap Pivots to Enterprise (2019)
Magic Leap's $2.6 Billion Bait and Switch (2020)
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Nick Wingfield reports at The New York Times that for the last couple of years, the companies building virtual reality headsets have begged the public for patience as they strive to create virtual environments that don't make people physically sick. “We’re going to hang ourselves out there and be judged,” says John Carmack, chief technology officer of Oculus, describing what he calls a “nightmare scenario” that has worried him and other Oculus executives. “People like the demo, they take it home, and they start throwing up,” says Carmack. "The fear is if a really bad V.R. product comes out, it could send the industry back to the ’90s." In that era, virtual reality headsets flopped, disappointing investors and consumers. “It left a huge, smoking crater in the landscape,” says Carmack, who is considered an important game designer for his work on Doom and Quake. “We’ve had people afraid to touch V.R. for 20 years.”
This time around, the backing for virtual reality is of a different magnitude. Facebook paid $2 billion last year to acquire Oculus. Microsoft is developing its own headset, HoloLens, that mixes elements of virtual reality with augmented reality, a different medium that overlays virtual images on a view of the real world. Google has invested more than $500 million in Magic Leap, a company developing an augmented reality headset. “The challenge is there is so much expectation and anticipation that that could fall away quite quickly if you don’t get the type of traction you had hoped,” says Neil Young
At least one company, Valve, believes it has solved the discomfort problem with headsets. Gabe Newell says Valve has worked hard on its virtual reality technology to eliminate the discomfort, saying that “zero percent of people get motion sick” when they try its system. According to Newell, the reason why no one has gotten sick yet is thanks to Valve’s Lighthouse motion-tracking system, a precise motion-tracking system that is capable of accurately tracking users as they move around a space. In the meantime the next challenge will be convincing media and tech companies to create lots of content to keep users entertained. “Virtual reality has been around for 20 years, and the one thing that has been consistent throughout this is that the technology is not mature enough,” says Brian Blau. “Today there’s the possibility for that to change, but it’s going to take a while for these app developers to get it right.”
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.
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).
Again, not to be confused with Leap Motion.
After years of behind-closed-doors demos and over-the-top hype, Magic Leap's augmented reality glasses took one more step towards reality today. The company has opened up orders for the $2,295 "Creator Edition" of its first headset, the Magic Leap One.
That price includes in-person delivery and setup of the developer-focused hardware, though that delivery is only available in select US cities for the time being—Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Seattle will be covered on day one. Those in other locations have to reserve a spot and wait for wider availability.
The hand-delivery is in part to determine which of two adjustable sizes for the headset is most appropriate for you—Magic Leap says "you'll be measured upon delivery to ensure the perfect fit." Magic Leap also says "limited quantities" are being made available now and that delivery of current orders will take place within "120 days and typically much sooner."
Compare the price to the $3,000-$5,000 developer versions of Microsoft's HoloLens, or the $1,500 Google Glass.
It requires a connected "lightpack" computer that clips onto a pocket or shoulder strap. The device has an Nvidia Tegra X2 chipset (2 Denver 2.0 cores, 4 ARM Cortex A57 cores, with one Denver core and two of the A57 cores accessible to developers), 8GB of memory, 128GB of storage, and a battery supposedly offering 3 hours of use. It also comes with a wireless handheld controller similar to ones offered by Oculus, Samsung, etc., although it is fully tracked by the headset's cameras, offering "a full range of motion" according to The Verge.
The field of view of the device is 40° horizontal, 30° vertical. This is larger than HoloLens's 30° horizontal, 17.5° vertical field of view, but is far less than that of VR headsets (typically 100-110° horizontal, and 200-210° horizontal for the Pimax and StarVR headsets) and human vision (around 220° horizontal when including peripheral vision).
Detailed review at The Verge.
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.
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.
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
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 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?"
Magic Leap press release: "Charting a New Course"
Magic Leap's consumer retreat is good news for the AR/XR industry
Instead Of Being Acquired For Billions, Magic Leap Lays Off Over 50% Of Workforce
What happens if Magic Leap shuts down?
Augmented Reality Startup Magic Leap Cuts Half of Staff Across Company (Report)
As Once-Hyped Magic Leap Flounders, [Ad] Agencies Say the AR Market Has Passed It By
Magic Leap Slashes Workforce, Causing 80–120 Animation Job Losses (EXCLUSIVE)
Augmented reality hits economic reality in the case of Magic Leap
Magic Leap Bashed for Being Vaporware
Magic Leap Finally Announces a Product, But is It Still Vaporware?
Magic Leap Opens Up Orders for $2,295 "Creator Edition" Augmented Reality Headset
Magic Leap Accuses Chinese Company of Copying Trade Secrets
2020: The Year of AR? "$2.6 Billion Flop" Magic Leap Pivots to Enterprise