Magic Leap Magic Leap Technology startup Magic Leap plans to begin production on its lightweight, portable headset devices later this year. (Photo: Magic Leap)

Why the next generation of Pokémon Go will be 'pretty epic'

Magic Leap founder says we’ve only just begun to see the awesomeness of augmented reality.

There will come a time, perhaps less than a year from today, when the thought of looking down at our phones to catch an elusive Pokémon will seem as archaic as buying a CD to listen to music. The small taste of augmented reality offered through Nintendo's Pokémon Go app, a global phenomenon that has amassed more daily users than Twitter, is but a precursor to a much larger evolution of the technology.

Soon, as promised by the tech startup Magic Leap, the world of mixed reality where everything, from whales breaching out of sidewalks to Pokémon darting behind trees, will not be held in our hands, but in our own field of view.

“Our system basically replicates how your eyes and brain work, how our neuro-visual system is designed to work, and it turns your brain into this kind of display,” Magic Leap founder and CEO Rony Abovitz told an audience at the recent Brainstorm Tech Conference in Aspen, Colorado. “So the idea is not to have a display that you look at, but to use the display that nature gave us and talk directly to it.”

Abovitz, the son of Israeli immigrants to the U.S., is not alone in his enthusiasm for what his company's technology is promising. In addition to more than $1.4 billion in funding from investors like Google, Magic Leap also has some 600 employees spread across production facilities in Plantation, Florida, a research and development facility in Tel Aviv, Israel, and offices in Los Angeles, Seattle, Mountain View, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The sheer scope of the company's size is unprecedented for an entity that has yet to even release a single product.

According to Abovitz, that will all change later this year when Magic Leap's production of its portable, lightweight headset device is expected to be given the green light. The company, which has already opened its augmented reality software to a hand-picked group of developers, will initially focus on games and entertainment. So what could a next-generation Pokémon Go look like on the device?

"So you hold up your phone and see a cute, little Pikachu running around the world, and it's sort of like a 2D graphics overlay looking through your cell phone," remarked Abovitz on the current iteration of Pokémon Go. "In Magic Leap, I would see Pokémon just like I see real people. Not looking through a screen. You have small Pokémon hiding behind, running around chairs, gigantic, 500-foot-tall Pokémon flying in the sky. It would be pretty epic."

Abovitz told the crowd that he loves that people are enjoying the app, adding that such enthusiasm for augmented and mixed reality is a sign of what's to come.

"We think it's a gateway to a whole new future that we're building the next thing for," he said.

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