Lifting the veil on Magic Leap
Find out what this computing company is doing behind the scenes and how it will change your life.
Picture a big flat-screen TV tuned to ESPN. The TV hangs in mid-air. Blink, and the TV vanishes.
No, this isn't the Jetsons' living room. This is real life. It's just one of the many cool things being cooked up at the Florida headquarters of a company called Magic Leap. With offices spanning the globe – from Israel to New Zealand – they are reinventing how humans interact with technology.
Imagine a world in which you don't have to look at a computer monitor or a smartphone to read an article or sift through your emails. What if you could simply blink and your inbox would appear out of thin air, hovering in front of you? And you could interact with it? Wave your finger up and scroll through the emails?
Magic Leap is the brainchild of Rony Abovitz, the son of Israeli immigrants. Founded in 2011 under a shroud of secrecy, the company is finally opening its doors to the public. In a cover story for the new issue of Forbes magazine, the 45-year-old Abovitz showed off some of the whiz-bang technology.
"Magic Leap’s innovation isn’t just a high-tech display – it’s a disruption machine," David Ewalt wrote in Forbes. "This technology could affect every business that uses screens or computers and many that don’t…. Throw out your PC, your laptop and your mobile phone, because the computing power you need will be in your glasses, and they can make a display appear anywhere, at any size you like.”
He added: "For that matter, they can make anything appear, like directions to your next meeting, drawn in bright yellow arrows along the roads of your town. You’ll be able to see what that new couch you’re thinking of buying looks like in your living room, from every conceivable angle, under every lighting condition, without leaving your home. Even the least mechanically inclined will be able to repair their automobiles, with an interactive program highlighting exactly which part needs to be replaced and alerting you if you’re doing it wrong."
Magic Leap employs something called "mixed reality" to create its illusions. Think of it this way: There's virtual reality, where you put on glasses and are instantly transported to a faraway land. Then there's augmented reality – that's what is used by the popular Pokemon Go game. Walk down your street and you see a Pokemon Go character like Pikachu appear on your phone. But Magic Leap takes all of this one step further.
"Mixed reality keeps you where you are – and makes that Pikachu come to life," the Forbes story explained. "As a result, mixed-reality objects are aware of their environment and have the ability to interact with the real world. On Magic Leap’s hardware a Pokemon might escape capture by ducking behind your couch."
The company is already working on video games and other forms of entertainment with science fiction writer Neal Stephenson and some of the same designers who brought you the “Lord of the Rings.” They’ve also announced a partnership with Lucasfilm to create an immersive experience in the Star Wars universe. Google and Warner Bros. have already invested in the company.
“It’s hard to think of an area that doesn’t completely change," said Abovitz, who spends some of his time at Magic Leap's R&D office in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Abovitz revealed that a consumer device, like a head-mounted display or a pair of smart glasses, should be ready within the next 18 months. Until then, we'll just have to watch a real TV.
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