Magic Leap tells us to “Have Faith”. Should we?

Recently Graham Devine, Chief Creative Officer at Magic Leap, told an audience to “Have Faith” that that the Mixed Reality revolution was coming.  He then went on to outline all of the facets of our lives in which Mixed Reality will have an impact.  In short, he listed just about everything we currently do with technology.  Even the most zealous among us might have a crisis of faith given these broad aspirations.  From the Phantom videogame console to the more recent Theranos scandal, there are plenty of examples to give anyone a health dose of skepticism. So why should we have faith? What evidence do we have to take Devine at his word?

Recently Graham Devine, Chief Creative Officer at Magic Leap, told an audience to “Have Faith” that that the Mixed Reality revolution was coming.  He then went on to outline all of the facets of our lives in which Mixed Reality will have an impact.  In short, he listed just about everything we currently do with technology.  Even the most zealous among us might have a crisis of faith given these broad aspirations.  From the Phantom videogame console to the more recent Theranos scandal, there are plenty of examples to give anyone a health dose of skepticism. So why should we have faith? What evidence do we have to take Devine at his word?


“Faith! What a dirty monosyllable—Jill, why didn’t you mention that one when you were teaching me the short words that mustn’t be used in polite company?”

-Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land


When looking for faith in Magic Leap, you cannot go to the source.  Magic Leap themselves have said many things about their company but very little of it is tangible.  From “technical” nonsense such as that from which this blog gets its namesake to broad outlines that give you nothing concrete to hang on to, you would be insane to have faith in Magic Leap from their own press.  Luckily, there are other sources to draw from.  

Investors

The investor story is arguable the only reason we talk about Magic Leap at all.  Their record breaking fundraising pushed them from an unknown company to the front page of every tech blog around the world.  1.39 Billion dollars on the back of a tech demo is unheard of. Yet, other companies have had similar (if not as grandiose) funding stories and still failed to deliver.  The industry is still reeling from the failure of Theranos to deliver a product.  Could Magic Leap follow the same course?

Of course they could but I would guess they cannot be pulling the wool over every ones eyes. The quality and magnitude of the investment coming in is unprecedented for a company at this stage of development. By contrast, a quick scan of the funding rounds Theranos has gone through shows much of their raise has been through private equity and, to a lesser extent, Walgreens.  I’m not sure how much experience Walgreens has in funding technology but they certainly aren’t the first name you think of in the tech investment space.  Magic Leap, on the other hand, has some of the biggest names in the industry backing them: Google, Qualcomm, Alibaba, Warner Brothers, JP Morgan among others. These are all well respected and intelligent organizations.  I could imagine a good demo getting them in the door for one or two of these companies but they seem to be able to raise from a wide variety of companies, across a range of industries.  

Recall, this is a business that has no brand to speak of, no production capability and an unfinished product.  They have been given 1.39 Billion dollars on the back of the potential of the technology alone.  The organisations backing Magic Leap would not thrown that kind of money around without seriously vetting the ability for Magic Leap to follow through on its promises.  For the money we are talking about, those promises must be extraordinary.

Staff

Smart people work at Magic Leap.  Sure, they have a chief futurist, but Neal Stephenson is far more appealing in that “position” than say, Will.I.Am. Let’s look at some of the people building Magic Leap.

  • Graham Devine: A highly respected video game developer brought in to lead the creative content creation on the platform.  
  • Gary Bradski:  One of the leaders in computer vision. He actually wrote the book on it.
  • Brian Schowengerdt: A PhD scientist from the University of Washington. His main research interest were in the functioning of the human visual system and perception. His work involves 3D displays, retinal scanned light displays, autostereoscopic displays, interaction with displays, adaptive displays, human factors, and human vision. 
  • Rony Abovitz: The CEO of Magic Leap.  He has successfully built and sold companies in the past.

This is just a small sampling but shows they have the leading experts in many technology categories fundamental to how the product will need to work.

Partnerships

Two of the largest and most protected intellectual properties in the world include Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.  Both had (or continue to have) huge productions behind them that pioneered new technology in the cinema space.  Both Weta workshops, who did the effects for Lord of the Rings and Lucasfilm, the people behind Star Wars, have committed to partnerships with Magic Leap.  These companies are high profile and pick partnerships carefully.  They would not hop on board with a new and unknown company unless they were convinced it was something special.  

There are more reasons than this to think having faith in Magic Leap might not be as crazy as it seems on the surface.  What little we know of the technology used points to a novel display mechanism that no one else in the industry is looking at.  We will have a post on theories around this technology soon but it does lend credence to the ambitions of Magic Leap.

 

Graham Devine tells us to “Have Faith” in Magic Leap

Graham Devine, Chief Creative Officer at Magic Leap, gave a talk at the Games For Change Festival in New York recently telling folks to “Have faith” that the mixed reality revolution is coming. 

Graham Devine, Chief Creative Officer at Magic Leap, consistently has an air of excitement when he gives talks about his beloved company.  Yet he always has the caveat of not being able to show us anything tangible.  The other day, he gave a talk at the Games For Change Festival in New York telling folks to “Have faith” that the mixed reality revolution is coming.  Considering what we know of the company, this is a poignant statement.  To be excited for the future Graham is laying out, you really do need faith in what he is saying because he sure isn’t going to show it to you.

He went on to layout his 4 pillars of mixed reality: Games, Media, Communication and Information.  This outlines just about everything we do with computers once again showing the broad aspirations of magic leap.  Let’s talk about these Pillars

Games


“[The game industry] is stuck [at Mario 64] … Sometimes we give you guns now”


According to Devine, gaming went through a distinct change when Super Mario 64 was released.  It showed the world how to create a 3D game.  Since that time, not that much has changed in mainstream gaming.  Well, he claims there is one change, “Sometimes we give you guns now”.  In terms of raw game mechanics, and discounting advances in art and story, I think he is broadly correct about this. Devine went on to say Mixed Reality games are going to be a similar sea change to Super Mario 64.  It will be very interesting to see what games are launched with this product with bold claims like this.  Those are the games that will define the category.  

Media

Why would we want Netflix in mixed reality?  This is the central question Devine uses to think about media in this context.  Devine makes the bold claim that in 10 years we won’t have televisions anymore.  We will watch Television through mixed reality instead of on a physical television.  

But that answer presupposed the success of mixed reality in the living room.  To get there, there needs to be a benefit today or whenever magic leap launches.  He sees this as having extra information available while watching.  Who is that actor? What song is playing? Where was this shot? With an MR viewing platform, that information can be provided while simultaneously projecting the video itself.  

Communication

Devine seems to imply a holoportation style communication platform on magic leap.  He mentions that using avatars to communicate is increasingly popular with the younger generations.  The Microsoft demo of Holoporation was incredible but it requires lots of gear to achieve.  I believe Devine was hinting at an avatar based version of this.  Where it isn’t you exactly as you are but a reasonable facsimile.  Nothing was confirmed on this front but it is exciting to speculate.  

Information

If you are 5 miles from your house and you realize you forgot your phone, would you go back for it?  I would.  Devine would too.  He wants Magic Leap to be so useful, have such valuable information access, that it fits into this category.  As a counter example, he notes that the Apple Watch is not one of these products, noting that he might not even go into his living room for it.  Yes, the Apple watch is mostly uselss, but is Magic Leap going to so important that we treat it like our phones?  He believes so and is striving for that goal.  

 

If there is one take away from this talk, and all other talks we have seen from the company, it is that they are highly ambitious.  They want to take the market that smartphone now hold.  Is that possible? Who knows. But Graham Devines wants you to have faith.

You can watch the video for yourself here and here.  Sorry for the terrible periscope link but I could not find it on youtube.

Sis Wei has some nice notes on the presentation as well.

Magic Leap and Lucasfilm team up showing strong support for Magic Leap’s mysterious technology

The excitement and skepticism around Magic Leap seems to grow each day.  It is hard to know if Magic Leap is going to change the world or dissolve into vapour.  Well, chalk one up for the world changers.  Magic Leap and Lucasfilm’s ILMxLAB recently announced a collaboration at the 2016 Wired Business Conference showing a new level of confidence in Magic Leap technology.  Aside from the funding, this is perhaps the the most telling signal that Magic Leap has a truly interesting product on their hands. 

The excitement and skepticism around Magic Leap seems to grow each day.  It is hard to know if Magic Leap is going to change the world or dissolve into vapour.  Well, chalk one up for the world changers.  Magic Leap and Lucasfilm’s ILMxLAB recently announced a collaboration at the 2016 Wired Business Conference showing a new level of confidence in Magic Leap technology.  Aside from the funding, this is perhaps the the most telling signal that Magic Leap has a truly interesting product on their hands. 

ILMxLAB was launched in June of 2015 in an effort to bring Lucasfilms creative to MR experiences.  They have show impressive demos in the past particularly with the ‘holocinema’ shown at this years sundance festival as seen below.  

The partnership is not surprising as Magic Leap technology fits well with the aims of ILMxLAB but it is interesting they did not choose to partner with Hololens considering that it is already out in the world in the form of dev kits.  Further, the partnership seems to be fairly deep.  Not only are they putting Star Wars content on the Magic Leap platform but they are setting up offices that will be jointly staffed by people from both organizations.


“We are Building a collaborative laboratory right in San Francisco, right adjacent to [ILMxLabs] offices where we will be able to work, create and co-invent the technology and creative that will power the future”


This laboratory solidifies how serious this relationship is.  It does not appear to be a simple PR partnership but a sincere effort to bring content to the Magic Leap platform.  This could be a great boon for the launch of the Magic Leap product.  Seeing a familiar and respected property on a product from a company no one will have heard of lends a credibility to Magic Leap it will sorely need.  Google Glass may have ushered MR technology along and in that sense it was a success but it poisoned the well in the process.  It is likely that the sentiment imposed by Google Glass will put a further burden on Magic Leap.  Hopefully, this partnership is the first step towards healing that public perception.
 

Talking to the GPU in your head

Magic Leap is a strange company.  There is really none other like it.   Between the eccentricities of the CEO to the enormous funding it has received, it is a unique snowflake.  Rony Abovitz, the aforementioned CEO, claims that they have found a way to talk directly to the “GPU in your brain”.  He isn’t joking or being hyperbolic. He seems to believe the words that are coming out of his mouth.  Is he crazy? Almost certainly.  But is he really crazy?

This is what I want to explore on this site.  Is this pie eyed company worth our attention or is it full of lunatics?  Perhaps both statements are true or perhaps we have missed the point entirely.

In future posts, I am going to put together the leading theories of what the product they are going to sell actually is.  I am going to dive into the minds of the investors to understand why this product is so valuable.  I am going to follow the latest news on what magic leap is currently up to.  

I hope to turn this site into the main portal in which to discover news and information about Magic Leap. 

If you are interested then join me to help write this blog. Leave a note in the comment section below.