The wait is over.
In an email this morning, secretive startup Magic Leap gave the public a first look at the mixed reality headset it’s been developing for more than five years.
The first version of the headset to be available for purchase, called the “Magic Leap One Creator Edition,” is aimed at software developers. The headset and its “creator portal” platform will ship to developers sometime in 2018, according to the Magic Leap website.
Pricing for the developer edition or eventual consumer version remains unavailable.
The company touts “digital lightfield” glasses, or “Lightwear,” that trick your brain into seeing unnatural 3D objects that aren’t really there. A cord tethers the glasses to a “Lightpack” you wear on your hip that delivers standalone, portable computing power.
This light field filters a thinner piece of light to create the illusory images you can see and interact with through hand gestures. Magic Leap is also offering a remote with haptic feedback and six degrees of freedom.
Key tech specs are still unavailable at this point. We don’t know the headset’s battery life or how wide its field of view is.
Rolling Stone’s Brian Crecente did test out the headset before the announcement and estimated “the viewing space is about the size of a VHS tape held in front of you with your arms half extended.”
“Like Microsoft’s HoloLens, which uses a different sort of technology to create mixed reality, Magic Leap’s Lightwear doesn’t offer you a field of view that matches your eyes,” Crecente writes. “Instead, the Magic Leap creations appear in a field of view that is roughly the shape of a rectangle on its side.”
Magic Leap refused to tell Crecente the headset’s battery life. Magic Leap’s competitor, the Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality headset, lasts for 5.5 hours during average use and 2.5 hours when pushed to its limits, according to The Verge.
Notably, the Magic Leap One’s glasses are connected via a cord to an external computer. On the other hand, the HoloLens achieves standalone computing without relying on an external source.
It’s possible Magic Leap could offer a more affordable alternative to the $3,000 Microsoft HoloLens Developer Edition. But they will also have to contend with the range of apps, developers and businesses already using the HoloLens.
Not to mention, a new HoloLens with improved computing power and a more immersive display is expected in 2019 or earlier, The Verge reports.
Here are some initial reviews of the Magic Leap One.
This week, Magic Leap gave Pitchfork and Rolling Stone exclusive early looks at the headset. Both writers were impressed with the tech.
Rolling Stone’s Crecente experienced a demo of a sci-fi wonderland and a virtual AI assistant that comes baked in the headset.
“At another point, a wall in the room suddenly showed the outline of a door with bright white light shining through it. The door opened and a woman walked in.
She walked up to me, stopping a few feet away, to stand nearby. The level of detail was impressive, though I wouldn’t mistake her for a real person, there was something about her luminescence, her design, that gave her away. While she didn’t talk or react to what I was saying, she has the ability to. Instead, Miller had her on manual control, running her face through a series of emotions: smiling, angry, disgusted. I noticed that when I moved or looked around, her eyes tracked mine. The cameras inside the Lightwear was feeding her data so she could maintain eye contact. It was a little unnerving and I found myself breaking eye contact eventually, to avoid being rude.
One day, this human construct will be your Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, OK Google, but she won’t just be a disembodied voice, she will walk with you, look to you, deliver AI-powered, embodied assistance.”
Pitchfork’s Marc Hogan tried out an interactive musical experience called Tónandi that’s the result of a more than four year collaboration between Magic Leap and Icelandic band Sigur Rós. Magic Leap also told him music was key to the company’s vision.
“There’s a nervous hum, and then I see a group of little sprites floating around in front of me. The jellyfish-like creatures seem to match the waveform of the music I’m hearing through headphones. Encouraged to explore with my hands, I reach out, causing the waveforms to alter shape—both visually and in the audio playback, like a SoundCloud embed that’s somehow alive, three-dimensional, and responding to my movements.”
Magic Leap, founded in 2011 and based in Florida, has raised $1.9 billion from the likes of Google and Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Today, the company enjoys a $6 billion valuation.
Image Credit: Magic Leap