Today, the Magic Leap One form factor was revealed in an article by Rolling Stone and through Magic Leaps own website. And for the first time we have a ship date. Consumers will be able to buy the “Creators Edition” in 2018. This has been a long time coming.
The Magic Leap One
The first product consists of three pieces: Lightwear which is the headset, the Lightpack which is a connected compute and battery unit and Control, a six degree of freedom input device.
This is it. The most important piece of Magic Leap One. The headset is the first impression of the device and the core of the technology. It is at the same time surprisingly small and too large. It is brimming with sensors. It’s dense. Solid. It feels tightly packed. As if every square centimeter has been filled with circuitry. It’s somehow nostalgic. It’s the future but how the past envisions it. Cutting edge but at home in the ’80s.
It’s bulky. Too bulky. This isn’t for regular folk to walk down the street in. It looks like it is out of a movie. The too cool and aloof techy wears this while performing hacking miracles.
It looks like it could be comfortable. Rolling Stone agrees saying “The goggles were so comfortable you almost forget you’re wearing them”. They don’t look like they hang off your head like most headsets do. They are tight. Everything about this product looks tight. It looks lightweight. There are no extra straps. It doesn’t sit on your ears relying only on the bridge of your nose and the band around the head well clear of the ears. In fact, there don’t appear to be headphones at all. Rolling Stone states there are “Tiny, high-end speakers built into the temples of the device”. This isn’t private audio. This is a loud device to wear. It doesn’t fit into the background to be forgotten or ignored. Everything about it screams.
It has 6 cameras. 4 microphones. 2 speakers. 2 wires coming out of the back. A compute unit for on headset, realtime processing. Eye tracking. Gesture recognition. And of course the two photonic wafers to transmit the lightfield into your eyes.
It is a first iteration product. This isn’t for everyone. It isn’t friendly enough for that. It has too much character for the mainstream. You can read that as it’s too ugly but I think that does it a disservice. In the right context this this looks cool. But it is for earlier adopters and developers. For folk with a lot of disposable income and a need to see the future today.
The lightpack is huge. It is far bigger than I expected. This doesn’t fit in your pocket. It hangs out of it. It is a large, clip like design. One half goes in your pocket or belt (or shoulder holster it seems?) and the other half sits outside of it. This isn’t just a smartphone. The space they have means they can do much more. I suspect a large chunk of it is battery. But even if half if it is battery they still have more room than a typical smartphone. It sounds like they aren’t using mobile hardware. The announcement is absent of specs but they talk about it like they are using hardware that is typically in laptops. This means the potential for far more horsepower than we see in an iPhone or the Nintendo Switch.
As with the Lightwear, this isn’t trying to hide. It is out there. On your hip. For everyone to see. With a cable that splits and snakes up to your head, you will know you are wearing it. It will be exciting to discover exactly what the lightpack can do.
Control is one of the many input modes for Magic Leap One. It contains an array of buttons, six-degrees of freedom motion sensing, haptics, and a touchpad.
It looks comfortable and benign. A similar yet simplified version of other controllers of this nature. The big question is how well the motion control works. Is this vive or oculus level accuracy? Is it simply driven by an IMU and prone to drift and recalibration?
Combining this with hand tracking, head position, voice input and eye tracking we have many input modes for the Magic Leap One. We have to hope they have come up with some good interaction primitives to tie this all together in a intuitive and consistent way.
All Together Now
We finally know what Magic Leap has made and we know when it is going to be shipped. This is a huge moment for the company and will finally put to rest many of the more extreme doomsayers. Magic Leap is not Theranos. There is a real product. People have tried it and they can finally talk about it.
What remains to be seen is if it is any good. This coming year will reveal all.