What if the 'start' button was anywhere you wanted it to be? What if you could look at your desk and see all you need to know for the day then look up and turn the ceiling into a canvas for art? Magic Leap, a secretive Silicon Valley start up that has raised more than $1 billion in funds from some of the biggest names, promises to do just this.
Magic Leap works with something called mixed reality. Where virtual reality, the big new fad in the tech world, is about creating entirely new worlds that you can walk around and play with, mixed reality aims to add virtual bits to your existing world. This mean that, instead of creating a video game environment, it tries to add holograms and digital screens to the world around you, as the video demonstrates.
This is much harder than virtual reality, because it has to be able to constantly update based on what you are looking at. Kevin Kelly, who wrote a piece about Magic Leap for Wired, explains what the experience is like.
"I saw other things with these magical goggles. I saw human-sized robots walk through the actual walls of the room. I could shoot them with power blasts from a prop gun I really held in my hands. I watched miniature humans wrestle each other on a real tabletop, almost like aStar Wars holographic chess game. These tiny people were obviously not real, despite their photographic realism, but they were really present—in a way that didn’t seem to reside in my eyes alone; I almost felt their presence."
If that does indeed bear out when the product is released it will be something truly special. Other attempts at mixed reality require holograms to be projected on specific glass surfaces. Magic Leap promises to integrate virtual reality with the entirety of your existing world.
But few have seen it actually do it. Others across the board, from Apple to Microsoft to dozens of entrepreneurs on Kickstarter, are also getting into the VR and mixed reality game. But Magic Leap, with its lack of of actual product demos and its massive fundraising, appears to be one of the most interesting devices being developed.
That said, we also have to take the company and Wired's word for it. As the Verge's Nilay Patel points out, "all we really know for sure is that there's a new kind of display technology involved."
"But what's running on that hardware component? Is there a giant fridge-sized supercomputer under a table somewhere? Is there a new Magic Leap OS? What's powering the experiences of "Extreme Erik" and "Creative Cara" as disclosed in leaked Magic Leap pitch decks? Is there an app platform? Is there a Netflix app? What's the Gmail integration like? The actual hardware part of VR / AR is super interesting now, but in the end all the same platform questions we learned to ask about mobile phones are going to determine the winners and losers all over again. Does Magic Leap have any answers to those questions? "