Magic Leap, which has raised half a billion dollars from investors including Google, has been building its technology in secret for years. But it’s getting closer to show us its version of mixed-reality computing. “We’re actually gearing up to build millions of things,” said Rony Abovitz, the company’s president and CEO, speaking at the WSJD conference in Laguna Beach, CA. The company is using part of an abandoned Motorola factory in south Florida and is now developing its manufacturing processes, he said. “We’re not ready to announce when we’re shipping, but it gives you a signal that we’re not far,” Abovitz said.
Little is known about Magic Leap’s device, but Abovitz described it as a small, self-contained computer that people will feel comfortable using in public. It is believed to involve retinal projection, and evolved out of surgical research. (Abovitz’s previous business involved medical devices.) And when it arrives, Magic Leap will likely compete with Microsoft’s HoloLens, which is now taking applications for its development kits.
“ANYTHING YOU CAN DO ON A SMARTPHONE, YOU CAN DO ON MAGIC LEAP.”
Magic Leap has a working software development kit and has invited several teams of developers to its Florida offices to begin making apps, and is regularly holding hackathons there, Abovitz said. Among the apps built for Magic Leap so far: a simple game that lets you throw a digital ball back and forth, and an app that projects a hand and a digital stove to teach you how to make macaroni and cheese.
The ultimate vision for Magic Leap is to create “a broad-based platform for visual computing,” said Rio Caraeff, the company’s chief content officer. That’s one reason why Google CEO Sundar Pichai sits on its board — and why the company was valued at $1.2 billion last year, not counting its $542 million investment. “Anything you can do on a smartphone, you can do with Magic Leap,” Caraeff said. “Where the world is your screen.”
The company also showed a video today meant to mimic what you’ll see when you’re using the device. One clip of 10 seconds or less showed a robot named Gimbal hiding under a desk; the other showed a model of the solar system projected on a desk. Neither was anywhere near as dramatic as the shooter that the company revealed in June.