Magic Leap announced last week that its mixed reality glasses — which have been shrouded in mystery and hype for almost four years — will be available later this summer. What should’ve been exciting news unfortunately fell flat. In a developer chat on Twitch that same day, the company showed off a less-than-impressive pre-recorded demo of a small rock golem throwing some rubble around. Compared to earlier videos of a crashing whale in the middle of a gym and a floating solar system, this just came off as disappointing. Was this all there was?
The next day, Magic Leap co-founder Rony Abrovitz went on Twitter to explain that the video was a teaching tool for the creator and developer community. “Any video or 2D medium (photos) is completely inadequate to actually deliver the experience of a digital lightfield on ML1,” he tweeted, saying that the Magic Leap hardware is tuned to the way the human eye works, and is not designed for camera sensors. In short, it’s better if you try it.
While that might be true, it’s clear from the backlash that the public’s patience for Magic Leap has grown thin. Over the past four years, the company raised over $2.3 billion in funding, with a chunk of early investment from Google all raising our expectations. The company also released those aforementioned teaser videos, where it really seemed as if it could conjure up virtual creatures and have them interact with the real world.
DEMO MOVIE2 #magicleap #magicleaplive #マジックリープ pic.twitter.com/3jrbIcjqtg
— Sadao Tokuyama@MagicLeaper.unity (@tokufxug) July 11, 2018
As great as it seemed, the company has been incredibly secretive, letting only select media try it first hand. There were also reports that some of those early videos were fake, and created with special effects. Combine that with the lackluster golem demo and the fact that it’ll be an AT&T-exclusive and Magic Leap seems like an overhyped mess.
Which, unfortunately, casts doubt on the state of augmented reality in general. While virtual reality is slowly gaining popularity, AR just doesn’t seem to have succeeded in the same way. Google couldn’t make Glass work despite its deep well of resources, and Microsoft’s HoloLens is still very much in the developer stage. Even Apple, which is said to be making its own AR glasses, apparently won’t have anything to show until 2020 at the earliest. What is it that makes AR so difficult? And why hasn’t it taken off?
Except, it sort of has… in the enterprise world, that is. “There are actually over 50 smart glass manufacturers out there in the market now,” said Ori Inbar, the founder of Augmented World Expo and partner of Super Ventures, a venture fund that focuses on augmented reality.
Those manufacturers include Vuzix, ODG, Meta, Solos, Epson and Atheer to name a few, and almost all of them make some kind of AR headset, primarily for businesses — helping technicians fix a