Magic Leap 2 isn’t available just yet, but when it hits the market later this year it will be directly competing with Microsoft’s HoloLens 2. Though Magic Leap 2 beats out its rival in several meaningful places, its underlying design still leaves HoloLens 2 with some advantages.

Magic Leap as a company has had a wild ride since its founding way back in 2010, with billions of dollars raised, an ambitious initial product that fell short of the hype, and a near-death and rebirth with a new CEO.

The company’s latest product, Magic Leap 2, in many ways reflects the ‘new’ Magic Leap. It’s positioned clearly as an enterprise product, aims to support more open development, and it isn’t trying to hype itself as a revolution. Hell—Magic Leap is even (sensibly) calling it an “AR headset” this time around instead of trying to invent its own vocabulary for the sake of differentiation.

After trying the headset at AWE 2022 last week, I got the sense that, like the company itself, Magic Leap 2 feels like a more mature version of what came before—and it’s not just the sleeker look.

Magic Leap 2 Hands-on

Photo by Road to VR

The most immediately obvious improvement to Magic Leap 2 is in the field-of-view, which is increased from 50° to 70° diagonally. At 70°, Magic Leap 2 feels like it’s just starting to scratch that ‘immersive’ itch, as you have more room to see the augmented content around you which means less time spent ‘searching’ for it when it’s out of your field-of-view.

While I suspect many first-time Magic Leap 2 users will come away with a ‘wow the field-of-view is so good!’ reaction… it’s important to remember that the design of ML2 (like its predecessor), ‘cheats’ a bit when it comes to field-of-view. Like the original, the design blocks a significant amount of your real-world peripheral vision (intentionally, as far as I can tell), which makes the field-of-view appear larger than it actually is by comparison.

Photo by Road to VR

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if only the augmented content is your main focus (I mean, VR headsets have done this pretty much since day one), but it’s a questionable design choice for a headset that’s designed to integrate your real-world and the augmented world. Thus real-world peripheral vision remains a unique advantage that HoloLens 2 holds over both ML1 and ML2… but more on that later.

Unlike some other AR headsets, Magic Leap 2 (like its predecessor) has a fairly soft edge around the field-of-view. Instead of a hard line separating the augmented world from the real-world, it seems to gently fade away, which makes it less jarring when things go off-screen.

Another bonus to immersion compared to other devices is the headset’s new dimming capability which can dynamically dim the lenses to reduce incoming ambient light in order to make the augmented content appear more solid. Unfortunately this was part of the headset that I didn’t have time to really put through its paces in my demo as the company was more focused on showing me specific content. Another thing I didn’t get to properly compare is resolution. Both are my top priority for next time.

Photo by Road to VR

Tracking remains as good as ever with ML2, and on-par with HoloLens 2. Content feels perfectly locked to the environment as you move your head around. I did see some notable blurring, mostly during positional head movement specifically. ML1 had a similar issue and it has likely carried over as part of the headset’s underlying display technology. In any case it seems mostly hidden during ‘standing in one spot’ use-cases, and impacts text legibility more than anything else.

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And while the color-consistency issue across the image is more subtle (the ‘rainbow’ look), it’s still fairly obvious. It didn’t appear to be as bad as ML1 or HoloLens 2, but it’s still there which is unfortunate. It doesn’t really impact the potential use-cases of the headset, but it does bring a slight reduction to the immersiveness of the image.

While ML2 has been improved almost across the board, there’s one place where it actually takes a step back… and it was one of ML1’s most hyped features: the mystical “photonic lightfield chip” (AKA a display with two focal planes)—is no longer. Though ML2 does have eye-tracking (likely improved thanks to doubling the number of cameras), it only supports a single focal plane (as is the case for pretty much all AR headsets available today).

Continue on Page 2: Different Strokes for Different Folks Enterprise Use-cases »

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Jayman

    Magic Leap is still around?? Nearly 10 years after the elephant-in-the-palm gag, I thought they were defunct.

  • XRC

    Look forward to trying ML2, thoroughly enjoyed using ML1.

    Shame about the loss of dual focal plane, was very effective on ML1.

  • Interesting review. I personally prefer the ML2 over the HoloLens 2. The unit I reviewed of HL2 had rainbows everywhere, the FOV was super limited, and it didn’t work in sunlight. ML2 had larger FOV, better colors, better FOV, and the dimming feature let me use it even in brighter environments. Dimming also let me try it as a pseudo-VR headset.

    Totally agree on the all-in-one vs all-in-two design, its the greatest flaw of this headset… together with the lack of backing of a great cloud solution (like Azure with HL2). But I still think that in a good number of use cases now this is better than HL2.

    • Sven Viking

      I guess the dimming is for the whole lens, not localised?

      • Malkmus

        There is segmented dimming, so it can isolate certain areas.
        Kind of an awkward article here. I get maybe not wanting to hype up Magic Leap because of what happened in the past, but credit where it’s due. Like, we’ve been waiting years for an AR headset that could finally display black, and 70 degrees was once considered the holy grail when it was rumored Hololens 2 would have it some 4 years ago. But the article just kind of glosses over these breakthroughs as not that big a deal, and pumps up Hololens 2 without even mentioning the major news this week that Kipman has been fired, the hardware and software teams split up, and the future of the device is in question due to its dependency ont the in flux Army contract. Seems remiss not to mention all these things.

        • XRC

          The news of kipman’s resignation from Microsoft over allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour?

  • So whatever advantages it might have had over other AR headsets are now gone and it’s pretty much just like any other AR headset you might find out there. They’ve even give up on bringing this to the wider market.

    I guess, on the upside, it’s at least a REAL product and not just a hype machine. It’s pretty much exactly what it was always going to be once REALITY had it’s way with their fantasy.

    Still doesn’t change the fact that the real future of AR is in VR headsets using pass-through cameras, like the Quest. This is a dinosaur on display.

  • Cooe

    This article just COMPLETELY ignores the absolutely GARGANTUAN performance GULF in between HoloLens 2 & Magic Leap 2… Regardless of any form factor advantages, the former product just isn’t powerful enough anymore to do what the latest & greatest enterprise AR customers want.

    As in the former device is literally running on a whimpy as hell Samsung 10nm Snapdragon 850 ARM smartphone SOC… The latter otoh is using the same, cutting edge TSMC 7nm AMD “Van Gogh” x86 APU used in the Valve Steam Deck. (Aka a 4c/8t Zen 2 CPU + 8x RDNA 2 CU’s + 128-bit LPDDR5)

    TL;DR – The Magic Leap 2 is literally at a MINIMUM ≈5 TIMES FASTER/more powerful than the HoloLens 2. They aren’t even in the same freaking universe anymore…