Here's Everything We Know About Magic Leap, The Crazy-Sounding Startup Google Might Invest Hundreds Of Millions In

Google and other major investors like Andreessen Horowitz could be on the brink of making a major $US500 million investment in a “cinematic reality” startup called Magic Leap, sources tell Re/code’s Liz Gannes and Peter Kafka

Magic Leap describes itself as being a “developer of novel human computing interfaces and software” and just closed a $US50 million+ Series A round in February. The company is working on a new kind of augmented reality — that it calls cinematic reality — that it believes will provide a more realistic 3D experience than anything else that’s out there today. 

Instead of creating an immersive virtual world seperate from the real world, like the Rift headset from Oculus VR (which Facebook bought for $US2 billion earlier this year), Magic Leap will weave “3D light sculptures” into the world around us, using a combination of proprietary hardware, software, and firmware. 

You can get an idea of its vision on the company’s website, where you see a video of a little elephant that looks like it’s hovering in someone’s hands:

The company’s founder and CEO, Rony Abovitz told the South Florida Business Journal that he wants Magic Leap’s technology to be disassociated with current ideas of what virtual reality or augmented reality is like.

“It is a new way for humans to interact with computers,” he says. 

Magic Leap’s technology will project high-resolution images into the world in front of you, likely through a pair of glasses, according to details in a recent New York Times article. Abovitz says he envisions Magic Leap’s technology being used in people’s day-to-day lives, not just for gaming. 

Based on its website, the company also has educational ambitions:

“Our technology exists to unlock the creative spark found in all of us,” Abovitz said in a press release

Abovitz also told the South Florida Business Journal that most people think that Magic Leap’s technology is still 50 years away. “We are definitely blowing people’s minds,” he says. 

Magic Leap has a partnership with Weta Workshop, the special effects team behind movies like “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.” The two companies are working on multiple projects together, and a Magic Leap team is even embedded with Weta in New Zealnad. Weta’s founder, Richard Taylor, is on Magic Leap’s board. You can feel the pull toward the mystical on Magic Leap’s site:

One of the things Weta and Magic Leap worked on together was an app called “Hour Blue,” which let users interact with an augmented reality “speakbot.” Abovitz has since called that app “more of a red herring” in regard to what the company is working on now. 

Before Abovitz founded Magic Leap, he cofounded a surgical robotics company called MAKO that sold for $US1.65 billion. He describes that company now as “like bringing ‘Star Wars’ droids to life to help people in medicine.” 

Rony AbovitzScreenshot / YouTubeMagic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz.

Magic Leap has a bunch of patents, including one for a tactile glove for human-computer interaction, an ultra-high-resolution scanning fibre display, a 3D display that uses a “wave guide reflector array projector,” a system that lets one or more people interact with the same augmented reality environments, and a head-mounted optical system (diagrammed below):

One of Magic Leap’s central concepts is that its technology will feel more natural than anything else on the market. No bulky goggles here.  

“What is remarkable is how well the human body and mind respond when technology respects biology, so truly magical experiences become possible,” Abovitz says

The company is currently based in Hollywood, Florida, and Abovitz says he plans to remain there despite the pulls of Silicon Valley or Boston, eventually growing the business into an Apple-size company. Since it launched in 2011, Magic Leap has grown to over 100 employees, including well-known tech marketer Brian Wallace, who said that seeing Magic Leap’s product in action was “one of the most profound moments I’ve ever had.”  

Another hire, games developer Graeme Devine, told Polygon that Magic Leap’s technology blew him away when he first saw it:

“I went to the offices and I saw something that I did not think was possible. I like to think I know technology and I am not easily impressed. I worked at Apple, but when I saw what they were doing, I just said, immediately, ‘how can I help?'”

Abovitz seems like a fascinating guy. In 2013, he gave a strange performance called The Synthesis of Imagination at TEDxSarasota:

In an eerie performance Abovitz dressed as an astronaut and shared the stage with two furry creatures. 

 “A few awkward steps for me, a magic leap for mankind,” he intones.  

The creatures, called “Shaggles,” were created by Travis Boatright Design, and based off the company’s comic series, called “Magic Leapers”:

Watch the whole performance here:

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