Magic Leap is working on “mixed reality” technology so mind-blowing, that the people who’ve seen it rave about it.
Magic Leap has raised over $1 billion in venture money to build a new kind of computer.
It’s a pair of glasses that project computer-generated images onto your field of vision. They look so real, your brain can’t tell the difference, founder and CEO Rony Abovitz told attendees of Fortune Brainstorm in Aspen on Tuesday.
The CEO of Disney, Robert Iger, who creates all kinds of amazing technology-infused experiences, lights up when he talks about Magic Leap.
At the Fortune Brainstorm conference in Aspen on Monday, Iger said, “I stood in a room had Tinker Bell fly up to me, around me. It looked extremely real. I thought I could touch her. That starts to get very exciting.”
Disney’s Lucasfilm is one of a long list of companies working with Magic Leap to create content for the glasses. Magic Leap, based in Florida, has a “secret lab” at the Lucasfilm campus in the Bay Area, Abovitz told attendees.
Abovitz also says that the company is getting very close to releasing its first products. The firm now has over 600 employees and “our system is working,” he said. The company has “a big factory,” reconfigured from an old Motorola factory.
“We have Class 100 cleanrooms running now. We’re debugging a high production line this summer. We are in the go mode, soon-ish,” Abovitz says.
Magic Leap has been called one of the most secretive startups because it seems like almost nobody has actually tried the product.
But that’s not entirely true. Many have seen it, but they have been sworn to secrecy.
“We’ve had probably thousands [try it] under NDA. They can’t talk about it,” Abovitz said.
For instance, in addition to the secret lab at Lucasfilm, there’s a development center in Silicon Valley. Employees are asked to wear the glasses and live in this mixed reality world their whole work day.
At the office, digital people roam around (they have been made a little brighter to indicate they are not real, Abovitz says). There are “X-wings” flying around and other imaginary creatures roaming the office.
Chief Marketing Officer Brian Wallace describes the office “like a Harry Potter world come alive.”
But it’s not all fantasy. In addition to games and entertainment, Magic Leap is working on office apps, like a task list that follows you around. Employees actually use the glasses and apps instead of laptops, which was the original vision for the device, Abovitz says. He wanted to create something where people weren’t constantly staring at a small screen.
That means there are also lots of app developers working on other work related apps everything from the medical industry to manufacturing and design.
“It’s a computer. People will build lots of things,” Abovitz says.
As for the need for secrecy, Abovitz implies that it’s really more like an Apple-like need for control because Magic Leap is building every part of the device themselves, including the hardware, software, electronics, chip design, sensors, and the user interface.
“We’re like a baby Apple in the sense that we want to take on the whole problem. We want to deliver something that never existed before. We have to literally make everything from srcatch to allow this future state of computing to exist,” Abovitz says.
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