The big picture: No other mixed reality headset has generated the level of hype and promise that Magic Leap has. It's still early days, however, and although the technology is off to a good start (and it's not vaporware), early reviews suggest it needs a good bit more refinement before it'll be ready for mainstream adoption.
Magic Leap recently invited a handful of journalists to its Plantation, Florida, headquarters to try out its namesake mixed-reality headset, the Magic Leap One. Having raised over $2.3 billion in funding since its inception in 2010, Magic Leap has generated a ton of hype yet still is shrouded in secrecy.
With the first wave of reviews hitting the web, many are asking, does it live up to the hype?
Adi Robertson with The Verge provides a quick overview of Magic Leap One’s hardware:
As Magic Leap has previously revealed, the Magic Leap One is a three-part device consisting of glasses called Lightwear, a wearable computer called the Lightpack, and a handheld controller. The Lightwear uses a combination of tracking cameras and a lens called a “photonics chip” to project images over the real world, while the Lightpack features an Nvidia Tegra X2 mobile chipset, 8GB of memory, 128GB of storage, and a battery that’s supposed to provide up to 3 hours of continuous use and charges over USB-C. There’s a headphone jack, but by default, the Magic Leap One uses small speakers built into the sides of the headset.
After resolving a fitment issue, Wired’s Jessi Hempel got down to business:
Once the headset was working, the experiences were creative and compelling. The images were crisp and solid (as solid as virtual reality can be, anyway). With a click of the controller, I pinned a Helio browser on the wall to my left. I opened a Wayfair demo in a second browser directly in front of me. A plush chair appealed to me from the Wayfair website, so I used the controller to drag it directly into the living room and see what it might look like. I finally saw the NFL demo, using my controller to plant the playing field on the ground so that I could better see an interesting move in a game I was watching. And I got to play Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders, a first-person shooter game being developed by Weta Gameshop.
With help and support from a friendly robot called Gimbal, I shot at the menacing robots that were walking ominously toward me until I’d killed them all and a portal opened in the wall. As I was spraying my ammunition, I accidentally hit Gimbal, and I was so caught up in the game and the character that without thinking, I apologized to him.
These experiences are certainly on par with other augmented reality and virtual reality demos I have seen. Are they really mind-blowingly better than the competition? Not yet. But Magic Leap does have a product, and despite its naysayers, it’s very close to being in all of our homes.
(Image courtesy Sarah Tew, CNET)
Scott Stein with CNET shares his experience with the futuristic goggles:
I can tell you this: the Magic Leap One isn't vaporware. It's real, and it works. Whether it's more than a developer prototype, and whether it amazes you, is another story. My initial experience didn't blow me away, despite Magic Leap's promises. And yet, I came away thinking it's the best AR headset experience I've had to date -- including my Microsoft HoloLens escapades. Even though it's not all that fundamentally different from the HoloLens, which has been available for developers to purchase for $3,000 since 2016, the Magic Leap One feels better in terms of display, controls, graphics and immersiveness. And by immersiveness, I mean the things I see and interact with feel more real in front of me. Still, though, there are significant drawbacks to Magic Leap's AR hardware, mostly in terms of its limited field of view.
This AR system is a step forward, but not a game changer. Not yet, at least. It all depends on what comes next.
CNBC’s Todd Haselton on trying the NBA app:
In a beta version of an NBA app, I was able to put a video clip of LeBron James on a wall in the room and then see a 3-D rendering on the floor of LeBron's scoring play in slow motion.
The video of the basketball game was good enough that, if it were live, I'd have no issue watching the full game wearing the headset. The 3-D rendering on the floor didn't look real, but more like renderings you'd see in a modern game console.
The text on it was sharp enough to understand and read. The experience didn't hurt my eyes or give me a headache in the brief time I spent with it, either. I liked that it gave a new perspective to the video clip I'd watched: It threw the actual game up on the wall alongside the kind of information a basketball fan would want, including 3-D renderings and stats. Today, you might turn to your phone for that information. With Magic Leap, you wouldn't have to.
Rachel Metz from MIT Technology Review on Magic Leap’s vision for the future:
Yet while Magic Leap has accomplished what many people said it would not, it still has a monumental task ahead: convince developers to make compelling content for a style of computing that is so new that many people don’t know it exists, much less what kinds of things it will be good for. Figuring that out is not going to be easy. And my sense is that the company itself doesn’t have a clue what the answer is.
(Image courtesy Alicia Vera, MIT Technology Review)
Once again, Adi Robertson from The Verge, this time with an overview of her experience:
We previewed the Magic Leap One before release, and it seems like an ambitious and well-built piece of hardware that’s still held back by technical limitations. The design is a lot more comfortable than it looks, especially because it comes in two sizing options with several different forehead and nose rests to change the angle and distance of the lenses. (While you can’t wear glasses with it, you can order prescription lens insets that clip onto the inside of the goggles.)
But the Magic Leap One’s 50-degree diagonal field of view, while larger than the competing Microsoft HoloLens, is still extremely limited. And the image quality feels roughly on par with the two-year-old HoloLens. It’s generally good, but with some tracking and transparency issues. Given how much effort Magic Leap has apparently put into cultivating internal creative teams and outside partners, we were also disappointed at the lack of substantial experiences from them. But that last thing, at least, isn’t a major issue for developers right now — since they can now buy Magic Leap’s hardware and start testing their own stuff.
The Magic Leap One Creator Edition is available to purchase from today for $2,295. Buyers in Chicago, LA, New York City, Miami, Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area will receive free in-person delivery and set-up; for everyone else, it looks as if you’ll have to make a reservation and play the waiting game.