Last year, Google led a $US542 million investment into Magic Leap, a Florida company working on a technology that overlays computer-generated images on top of your normal field of vision.
The term for this technology is “augmented reality,” and Microsoft is doing something similar with its HoloLens goggles, which it demonstrated last month.
Magic Leap’s founder Rony Abovitz is quite a character.
One of his hobbies is playing guitar and bass in a rock band called Sparkydog and Friends.
In an interview with the MIT Technology Review, Abovitz explains that he wanted to take the band on the road and play rooftops like U2 did in its famous video for “Where the Streets Have No Name” (which itself was inspired by The Beatles).
But he wanted to be able to play a thousand rooftops at once. He imagined building a projector that would show 3D holographic images, but was discouraged because the technology was so low-quality and expensive.
Then he thought about it in a different way. Instead of projecting images out in front of people, he’d build a head-mounted display that would beam the images directly into people’s eyes from a few inches away.
That’s the main difference between Magic Leap and a lot of other “virtual reality” technology, which immerses people in a computer-generated world.
Most VR headsets like Oculus Rift (owned by Facebook) trick the eyes by projecting two slightly different images, which can cause headaches and nausea in some people. Magic Leap is apparently beaming images through a tiny lens directly into the wearer’s retina, where they blend in with images from the real world.
The result? Amazingly realistic 3D images that appear to be right next to the real thing and don’t make people feel ill.
Aronson didn’t say when the first Magic Leap product would be out, except that it’s “not far away.” They’re aiming for it to cost around the same amount as today’s smartphones.