Magic Leap One: Everything We Know So Far

First fully revealed to Rolling Stone in 2017, the first publicly available version of the Magic Leap One headset will go on sale in the next month or so. 

The ever-growing team behind the mixed-reality headset and pocket-computer system say they believe the gear will reinvent the way people interact with not just computers, but reality. Where virtual-reality headsets recreate a user’s world inside a diver’s mask-like headset, Magic Leap aims to mix its creations with the reality a user inhabits. In the lead-up to a likely approaching media storm of new previews and interviews, now is a good time to go over exactly what we know so far about the technology, what its initial promise was and what we’re still hoping to learn.

What is Magic Leap likely to include in its headset when it launches?
The mixed-reality system uses an Nvidia Tegra X2 processor. The system on a chip, codenamed Parker, makes use of two ARM Cortex-A57 cores as well as a Denver 2 core.
Alan Kimball, lead developer of tech strategy at Magic Leap, said the processor means that developers will have access to all three cores for creating experiences. One core will focus on feeding information to the graphics chip, one will focus on gameplay logic, and the final will deal with jobs like handling physics and audio. The GPU built into the Tegra X2 is Pascal-based and has 256 CUDA cores. Kimball declined to discuss how much memory would be built into the system but said memory shouldn’t be a hurdle for creating experiences on the mixed-reality device.


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One site reports that the device will offer 128GB of storage — with about 30GB taken up by the operating system — and that it will have 8GB of memory.

How does Magic Leap compare to the competition?
The Microsoft Hololens features a custom “holographic processing unit,” 2GB of memory and 64GB of storage.

When does Magic Leap One come out?
The company said that a “Creator” edition will come out this summer, which gives his company until Sept. 22.

How much will Magic Leap One cost?
A cost hasn’t been announced, but the company said that it will be about as expensive as a computer.

What does the gear look like and what is it called?
The gear looks like oversized goggles with a thick hard plastic headband and two wires coming out of the rear. The wires attach to a pocket computer which can clip onto a person’s belt or the outside of their pocket. The goggles are called Lightwear and the computer a Lightpack.

The system also includes a controller which features a central over-sized thumb touchpad and several buttons.

How and where can I buy a Magic Leap?
Magic Leap’s first version will be sold to “creators” which means, in the eyes of Magic Leap, people who make things. It’s unclear how that will be defined, but they have said the devices will ship directly from their plant in Florida. Pre-orders or orders will likely take place on the company’s website once they open.

Where can I demo Magic Leap?
The creator edition won’t have demos in the public, but once the full retail release happens, a number of AT&T stores will have the device on hand for demos.

What sorts of programs will it have at launch?
No programs have yet been announced, but a number have been talked about including the Weta Workshops game, an app for watching multiple NBA games at the same time, displays for use as a television or computer screen, and a comic book reader that puts you in the midst of the comic.

Who does Magic Leap have content partnerships with?
A mix of companies are now involved with Magic Leap including AT&T, Weta Workshop, Turner Broadcasting, the NBA, Oscar-winning studio Framestore, Lucasfilm, the band Sigur Ros, and interactive comic book publisher Madefire,

What operating system does Magic Leap use?
Magic Leap uses an operating system called Lumin OS that is built around a Linux kernal called Lumis Core. Multiple Lumin apps can run at the same time, but apps built using Unreal or Unity (both of which it supports) have to run on their own.

What do Magic Leap’s menus look like?
The system’s menus can be shown in 2D or 3D and float in the air in front of the user. The menu features a number of round icons arranged in a circle. The interface will include details on battery life, WiFi connection and grant users the ability to create their own avatars. Instead of requiring the controller to use, owners can simply use their fingers to interact with the menus.

What is Magic Leap’s field of view?
One of the big unanswered questions is the Magic Leap’s viewing angle, that is, how much of your view it can take up with created reality. During my time with the device, I described that viewing area as about the size of a VHS tape held in front of your face with your arms mostly extended.

Recently uncovered documentation for developers is much more specific, saying that the Magic Leap has a horizontal field of view of 40 degrees and a vertical view of 30 degrees with a diagonal view of 50 degrees, resulting in a viewing area about one-third larger horizontally and double vertically that of the HoloLens.

To put it another way, at 40-inches, the field of view is big enough to show a large house cat, and at 144-inches it can display three six-foot-tall people.

Can Magic Leap’s images obscure real-world objects?
Not entirely, though I did see something like this done in a relatively dark room.

Can Magic Leap’s images look as if they’re disappearing behind real-world objects?

How does it compare to headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive?
While the virtual reality of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive is fully immersive, it’s unlikely anyone would mistake it for real. Using VR headsets also means essentially tuning out of reality and experiencing something only the user or users can see.

Magic Leap allows users to see the world around them and interact with the tech’s creations. In theory, it could one day be used to replace computer monitors, iPhone screens, watch faces. But it also doesn’t have the same level of graphics and the field of view is much smaller than with virtual reality. In VR, much of what the eye can see is recreated from left to right and up to down. With Magic Leap, the tech creates its experiences in a square of space invisibly floating before your eyes. While Magic Leap works to make the borders of what it can display blur into reality, there’s still a point to both sides and above and beyond where the image simply disappears.

How does it compare to mobile phone augmented reality?
Augmented reality in a phone requires a user to hold a phone up and see the augmented images projected onto the view shown through the camera’s phone. With Magic Leap, you simply wear the headset.

How does it compare to HoloLens?
Microsoft’s HoloLens uses a different sort of technology but in many ways delivers a similar experience. The view is smaller with HoloLens and some of the finer visual effects — like being able to make a created image block out what’s behind it — aren’t available.

How does Magic Leap work?
Magic Leap founder Rony Abovitz said he’d prefer not to call the tech the company is creating as VR, AR or MR. Instead, he says that Magic Leap is a spacial computer that creates a digital light field. The light field is essentially all of the light bouncing off all of the objects in a world. When you take a picture, you’re capturing a very thin slice of that light field. The eye sees much more of that light field, allowing a person to perceive depth, movement and a lot of other visual subtleties.

The theory that drives Magic Leap is that the world we see is in fact created in a person’s visual cortex, which is essentially working like a rendering engine in a graphics card or computer.

Magic Leap is said to trick the brain into thinking it is seeing reality. That reality is then overlaid onto what really exists. Almost as importantly, the image projected into a person’s eye is controlled by a computer that knows the surroundings so it can make sure a virtual character or creation doesn’t walk through a table or disappear into a wall. Finally, spatial sound is delivered via the headset as well, adding a greater sense of space to the experience.

Who is behind Magic Leap?
Magic Leap was founded by Rony Abovitz, who took the money he earned from selling Mako Surgical Corp., a company he created to sell robotic arms and software for surgery, and reinvested a chunk of it into Magic Leap in 2010.

In the years since launch, Magic Leap pulled in about $1.4 billion from investors like Google and Alibaba.

The company operates out of a massive complex in Plantation, Florida which includes its own fabrication plant, soundstage, testing areas designed to look like different rooms in a home, and offices for its more than 1,500 employees.

What about the whale and robot videos?
Magic Leap’s first real public outing was via a “proof of concept” video that showed a whale breaching from a high school gym floor, before flopping back down through waves of water and then vanishing. Other concept videos showed a tiny floating robot hiding under a table in an office and a user playing a game in their office based on Weta Workshops “Dr. Grordbort’s” world of fancy laser guns and robots.

Some of that was designed to entice more than inform, though I’ve seen the floating robot and it the video does a fairly good job of capturing what it’s like. Weta Workshops also announced they are working on a game for Magic Leap based on “Dr. Grordbort” and it sounds like it will be similar to what the video shows.

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