Imagine fighting off a horde of invading space aliens in your bedroom, or checking out a new pair of shoes floating above your coffee table. What sounds like technology from a science-fiction movie is now not that far off on the horizon.
The Ft. Lauderdale-based startup known as Magic Leap is poised to radically shift how we take in technology with its newly revealed smart glasses. It’s not virtual reality or augmented reality; these goggles are more like stepping stones to what Magic Leap calls ‘mixed reality’.
What is Magic Leap?
If you ask Magic Leap’s CEO Rony Abovitz how it works, he’ll tell you that a wafer-like lens manages the flow of photons that create the digital light-filled signal that hits your eye. It’s all just as complicated as it sounds. Perhaps the best way to describe it in layman’s terms is how one of Magic Leap’s engineer’s, Sam Miller, summed it up for Wired: “It’s like dreaming with your eyes open.”
The Magic Leap goggles – though the company prefers you call them ‘Lightwear’ – are an incredible piece of technology. They bring digitally-rendered images into the real world, tricking the eyes into thinking a school of jellyfish or flying dragon is just as real as the world around us. Even cooler, you can interact with the images. Hold out our hand and the digital butterfly fluttering around will land in your palm.
How Magic Leap’s technology can be used for education and entertainment could be endless. The company is already in talks with game designers and movie studios, eager to get a bite of the technology. Abovitz described testing the technology with a horror experience last year, and that it was just too terrifying. “It was very, very, very scary, like almost life-threateningly scary, so we kind of said, ‘OK, let’s put that aside for now.”
So far, Magic Leap has raised an impressive $1.9 billion, with investors like Google closely watching its progress.
The Lightwear Breakdown
The smart glasses are equipped with six cameras and are tethered to a pocket-sized computer that clips to your clothing, called a Lightpack. Four built-in microphones can sense real-world sounds around the user, and high-end speakers within the temples of the goggles provide sound that can react to your movement as well as the movements of the digital creations.
The current system which is being revealed publically for the first time is the ninth-generation according to a Rolling Stone piece, and includes a controller in addition to the Lightwear and Lightpack. While they might not be as sleek-looking as a pair of Wayfarer sunglasses, they’re much less goofy than comparable devices like the Oculus Rift.
“The aspiration is that eventually, this will become like glasses and people will wear them every day,” Gary Natsume, Senior Vice President of design, said. The smart glasses will likely be available in two sizes, and customers who normally wear glasses will be able to have their prescriptions built into the lenses.
Perhaps less visually amazing than the 3D technology, but equally impressive, is the amount of technology crammed into a relatively small and lightweight device. “Think about something close to like a Mac Book Pro or an Alienware PC,” said Abovitz. “It’s got a powerful CPU and GPU. It’s got a drive, WiFi, all kinds of electronics, so it’s like a computer folded up onto itself.”
The company has been incredibly secretive about the development of the technology and won’t give CPU specifics or even what the battery life is.
For gadget geeks eager to get their hands on what promises to be a technology game changer, there’s not yet a definite release date on the calendar. Abovitz said the company has an internal price in mind, but isn’t ready to release it just yet – though the rumor mill from people close to the company project the device to be between $1,000 and $1,500.
Magic Leap definitely won’t be the cheapest pair of glasses that you’ll buy, but they’ll certainly be the most jaw-dropping.