‘Tis the season for giving: Mixed-reality startup Magic Leap has finally unwrapped its long-awaited headset.
Dubbed Magic Leap One, the “creator edition” is a three-piece set featuring Lightwear goggles tethered to a pocket-sized Lightpack computer, controlled by a sleek hand-held remote.
The entire system is based on Magic Leap’s proprietary photonic lightfield chip, which uses nano-scaled technology to project a false reality—like holding a miniature elephant in your hands.
Boasting a “robust sensor suite,” Magic Leap One sees what you see, and then some.
“Whether it’s virtual displays sitting alongside the computer monitor on your desk or a virtual panda that climbs across your living room couch, visual perception with machine learning unlocks the power of spatial computing,” the product website said.
Founded by Rony Abovitz in 2010, the startup was born out of the idea that people should come first, and computing and technology should fit our needs. International investors agreed: Magic Leap has raised $1.9 billion to date from the likes of Google and Alibaba Group.
For years, no one really knew where that money was going; the uber-secretive firm didn’t release footage of its advanced augmented reality tech until 2015. A design patent awarded more than a year later hinted at a Cobra Commander-like headset—a far cry from the Lightwear specs unveiled this week.
Details are scant; Magic Leap wants to keep its seemingly earth-shattering hardware and software a secret as long as possible. The South Florida-based firm, however, recently invited Rolling Stone‘s Glixel to its Broward County headquarters for a hands-on look at the ninth-generation product.
“The Lightwear and Lightpack are almost toy-like in their design,” reporter Brian Crecente explained. “Not because they feel cheap—they don’t—but because they’re so light and there seems to be so little to them.”
The goggles, which look like a steampunk costume accessory, come in two sizes and expand to slide onto the head. Customizable forehead pad, nose pieces, and temple pads promise comfort and perfect fit, while individual prescriptions can be integrated into the lens for customers who wear glasses.
Six external cameras, four microphones, a real-time vision processor, speakers built into the temples (and a partridge in a pear tree) provide spatial sound that reacts to your movements—and those of the interactive virtual creations.
A cable hangs from the back of the headband, leading four or five feet into into the Lightpack. Users can clip the portable machine onto a pocket or shoulder strap during operation.
“This is a self-contained computer,” Abovitz told Rolling Stone. “Think about something close to, like, a MacBook Pro or an Alienware PC. It’s got a powerful CPU and GPU. It’s got a drive, Wi-Fi, all kinds of electronics,” the specifics of which have not yet been revealed.
Lastly, a palm-sized remote, simply called Control, features “an array of buttons, six-degrees of freedom motion sensing, haptics, and a touchpad,” according to Glixel.
The whole package, as described by the news site, seems impressive—with one exception: field of view.
Characterized as “about the size of a VHS tape held in front of you with your arms half extended,” the current prototype has nothing to add in terms of peripheral vision.
Future-gen hardware, though, “significantly expands the field of view,” according to Sam Miller, senior director of Magic Leap systems engineering, who declined to offer additional details.
Aimed at “creators”—designers, developers, anyone with a clue about software development—Magic Leap One is expected to begin shipping in 2018. Pre-order and pricing information will be announced at a later date.
“Our goal is to ultimately build spatial computing into something that a lot of people in the world can use all day every day all the time everywhere,” Abovitz said during an interview with Rolling Stone. “That’s the ambitious goal; it’ll take time to get there.
“But part of all day is that you need something that is light and comfortable. It has to fit you like socks and shoes have to fit you,” he continued. “It has to be really well tuned for your face, well tuned for your body. And I think a fundamental part of all day is the signal has to be compatible with you.”
Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.