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Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey reviews the Magic Leap One

By Shawn Knight · 7 replies
Aug 27, 2018
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  1. Magic Leap launched earlier this month as a pricey Creator Edition to mixed reviews. Members of the tech press poked all sorts of holes in the gadget’s proverbial armor and a few weeks later, the teardown specialists at iFixit found concerns of their own on the hardware level.

    On Monday, another opinion of Magic Leap’s first offering hit the web, this time from a rather unconventional source.

    Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus VR and the man largely responsible for the modern VR movement, published a review of the Magic Leap One on his personal blog. As you might have guessed, he didn’t have a ton of great things to say about the device.

    Unfortunately, their current offering is a tragedy in the classical sense, even more so when you consider how their massive funding and carefully crafted hype sucked all the air out of the room in the AR space. It is less of a functional developer kit and more of a flashy hype vehicle that almost nobody can actually use in a meaningful way, and many of their design decisions seem to be driven by that reality. It does not deliver on almost any of the promises that allowed them to monopolize funding in the AR investment community.

    Right out of the gate, Luckey labeled the tracking as bad, noting how the controller is slow to respond, drifts all over the place and is more or less unusable near large steel objects (due to its magnetic tracking technology). He also bashed the controller for not having a clickable trackpad and being too heavy.

    Luckey had high praise for Magic Leap’s Lightpack, the puck-like device that houses most of Magic Leap’s processing hardware. It would have been nice if the battery was user-replaceable, he notes, but in reality, most people aren’t going to use the device in long enough stints for that to matter (it offers up to three hours of use on a full charge).

    (Image courtesy iFixit)

    The praise is short-lived, however, as Luckey isn’t all that impressed with Magic Leap’s “Photonic Lightfield Chips.” This advanced technology, he says, is little more than “waveguides paired with reflective sequential-color LCOS displays and LED illumination, the same technology everyone else has been using for years, including Microsoft in their last-gen HoloLens.” As a bi-focal display, he adds, it only solves vergence-accommodation conflict at two depths. “Mismatch occurs at all other depths. In much the same way, a broken clock displays the correct time twice a day.”

    Luckey also takes issue with Magic Leap’s claim of having built a whole new operating system called LuminOS to take advantage of their spatial computing system. In actuality, he says, it’s little more than Android with a custom overlay and compares it to an Android Wear watch menu that floats in front of the user. “It is some of the worst parts of phone UI slammed into some of the most gimmicky parts of VR UI, and I hope developers create better stuff in the near future.”

    According to Luckey’s estimates (based on how Magic Leap’s order system worked before the company changed it following a tweet from him), total sales at this point are probably well under 3,000 units. Luckey said he knows of over 100 people that purchased the headset and almost none are AR developers. Instead, they’re mostly tech executives, early adopters or influencers – all of which have no plans to build AR apps for the platform.

    In conclusion, Luckey said the Magic Leap One is reasonably solid but nowhere close to what they had hyped up and has several flaws that prevent it from becoming a broadly useful tool for AR app development. It’s better than Microsoft’s HoloLens in some ways, slightly worse in others and is generally a small step past what was considered state of the art three years ago.

    It would be remiss of me not to touch on Luckey’s potential bias. He’s the face behind the Oculus Rift and Oculus VR, the tech and company Facebook scooped up for $3 billion (not the $2 billion that was initially reported) in early 2014. Luckey worked on the project under Facebook’s banner for a few years but parted ways with the social media giant in March 2017.

    While Luckey’s shortcomings with the Magic Leap One may very well be valid, some will no doubt feel as if he is carrying some pent-up resentment. The Oculus Rift was his baby and although they aren’t really the same (AR / VR / mixed reality), Magic Leap undoubtedly stole much of the thunder in the space over the past several years.

    Permalink to story.

  2. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 4,367   +2,889

    Did Facebook offer him more shares for bashing the competition or did he volunteer?
  3. Vulcanproject

    Vulcanproject TS Evangelist Posts: 696   +952

    I have no hands on but the low resolution UI icons shown there do look terrible and something out the mid 2000s lol
  4. texasrattler

    texasrattler TS Evangelist Posts: 617   +231

    So someone who knows more about VR than maybe anyone else, gave a review that was exactly what it was, a review. Sure he has weight, HE IS THE CREATOR OF MODERN VR, but he didn't just outright dismiss the product. He gave a better review than what most review sites probably would have done.
    I would want someone who is considered the modern creator of VR to be critical of something he spent along time creating then someone comes along and basically ruins what the VR experience is suppose to be or doesn't live up to the company's hype.
  5. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 3,152   +1,411

    See, I would have said he's a bad person to give a review. He knows so much about VR that his opinion will be biased by what he expects to be good. I've never used a real VR headset, I bet I'd think Magic Leap is pretty darn cool. And when he says stuff like this...
    It's meaningless. A 'tragedy in the classic sense' - what's that mean? everyone is dead at the end? And comparing 'massive funding' to a lack of results is also ignorant. Just because you throw more money at something doesn't mean you'll get instant results. He knows this - he's just picking on his competition.

    This is an early product. The first flat panel TV's cost $10,000 - were 100 pounds, weren't HD, and had ghosting and burn-in problems. Give it some time - we'll get there.

    I think he's bitter because he knows that Magic's AR product will have more commercial applications and therefore be more profitable than his VR ones.
  6. texasrattler

    texasrattler TS Evangelist Posts: 617   +231

    He called it crap because that's what it is. He just did it more gracefully. He still said it better than what most review sites would.

    Again doesn't he have a right to be bitter if someone scr*ws up your what they you have been working on for years, only to see it basically overhyped piece of trash that no one will ever see or use? I think so.
  7. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 3,821   +3,215

    Not every overly expensive early adopters tech has to be extremely expensive. Take VR for example.
  8. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 3,152   +1,411

    Not necessarily expensive - just nothing near as great as it's going to be in the future. It gets much much better and much much cheaper. This guy is acting like we'are at the end of any possible improvement.

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