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This is what we know about Magic Leap: the company is working on some kind of augmented reality technology, and Google invested $540 million in the startup last year.
That's it. That's everything.
But yesterday, Magic Leap unveiled a reality-bending demo that mixes holographic robots with classically styled ray guns. And if the video's description is believable, this is a working prototype.
Check it out (via The Verge):
The video's description says "This is a game we’re playing around the office right now," which sounds like a light-hearted exaggeration. But if the folks at Magic Leap are actually working on this kind of tech, and it sounds like they are, hyperbole is something they'd like to avoid.
So, I can only assume that this is meant to be taken seriously.
The demo was intended to be part of a TED talk by Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz. However, Abovitz was forced to pull out of the appearance at the last minute and opted for an Internet release instead.
Until today, no one really knew what was going on over at Magic Leap. The company's been around since 2010, but it's been operating in "stealth mode." Yeah. That's a real business term. It means that the folks at Magic Leap aren't ready to talk about their product(s) just yet.
Last year, Gizmodo tried to figure out what the company was developing by investigating patent applications and job listings. But the rabbit hole was too deep and too dark to tease out any conclusions. The article's best guess was that Magic Leap is trying to make some kind of lightweight, Android-powered augmented reality technology that focuses on games and comics.
Judging from this morning's video, Gizmodo's conclusion wasn't far off the mark. And if this technology is as impressive as it seems to be, things are about to get a lot more complicated in the alternate-reality business.
Microsoft introduced Project HoloLens back in January and is planning to unveil the consumer version sometime this year. And, if I had to guess, I would say that Magic Leap and Microsoft have very similar products.
And, lets not forget about Google Glass. Sure, the project is currently being reevaluated, but Google's put a lot of time and money into Glass. So there's a good chance that something will happen with that technology.
Plus, there's a potpourri of virtual reality devices hitting the market this year. Like I said, things are about to get complicated.
In a lot of ways, augmented reality feels more gamer-friendly than virtual reality. One of the biggest hurdles for VR developers is the motion sickness problem. Virtual reality headsets disorient players because the brain has to interpret a conflicting set of signals (ears, eyes, nose, touch, etc).
But augmented reality titles don't have to worry about that. Even if the games become incredibly complex, your eyes are still (mostly) interacting with reality. So, your brain stays happy.
I want to believe that Magic Leap's tech is as impressive as it looks, but the demo looks too good to be true. Maybe these augmented reality devices are as remarkable as they seem, but until one actually makes it into onsumers' hands, I'm going to keep my skeptical eyebrows raised.