Magic Leap, maker of one of the best AR headsets on the market, is making a major change to its leadership with a new CEO that will face the challenge of carving out territory for its transparent AR technology against a growing wave of passthrough AR headsets.

After a meteoric rise and then near catastrophic collapse under its original founder Rony Abovitz, Magic Leap brought on Peggy Johnson to stabilize the company, manage its pivot to enterprise, and launch the Magic Leap 2. Three years later, Johnson is out and a new CEO is taking over.

Magic Leap has announced that Ross Rosenberg will take up the position, an experienced tech executive who has worked in senior roles at a number of large-scale enterprise technology companies.

From the announcement, and its description of Rosenberg’s prior work, it seems clear that Magic Leap is hoping the new CEO will be able to guide it toward increased (or perhaps, initial) profitability.

But Rosenberg’s tenure will inevitably be about more than just streamlining operations and finding the right product-market fit; he’ll also need to both grow and defend the company’s turf as newer headsets focus on passthrough AR capabilities—the likes of Quest 3 and Vision Pro.

While neither headset is directly competing against Magic Leap’s enterprise-focused transparent AR headset, Rosenberg will surely be looking a few years down the road at which point passthrough AR headsets could begin to approach the size and real-life visual quality that is currently Magic Leap’s advantage.

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The company hasn’t yet hinted at an upcoming Magic Leap 3 headset, though with the current Magic Leap 2 only being out for a little over a year at this point, that could well still be brewing.

At least from the outside, it looks like the company had an amicable split with the former CEO, Peggy Johnson, though it isn’t clear which side compelled the change.

“Having accomplished so much of what I set out to do at Magic Leap, I felt the time had come to transition leadership to a new CEO who can guide the company through its next period of growth,” Johnson said in the announcement. “I’m incredibly proud of the leadership team we’ve built at Magic Leap and want to sincerely thank all of the employees for their work in helping to successfully reorient the company to the enterprise market.”

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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."
  • fcpw

    He must know great Titanic deck chair arrangements. Being first is not always a harbinger of success.

  • guest

    Maybe these patent trolls caused the growing wave of passthru headsets before making their delayed exit.

  • ViRGiN

    Regardless, still more dedication to the cause than Valve.

    • Ben Lang

      You gotta stop with the constant baiting and trolling.

      • VrSLut

        I find this anti-valve person an interesting mystery to be discovered. I don’t think it’s just some overgrown teenager gamer in Europe. Do any hackers in this forum have any idea where this person is coming from?

        • ViRGiN

          What

  • Cless

    Do these people still stay in business…? Damn its taking them long to go under.

    Also, funny thing. I see one “Content unavailable” message… Anyone wanna bet that its Virgin making some unrelated Valve comment somehow? XD

  • Ad

    Why didn’t you mention that the saudi monarchy’s royal investment fund is the majority owner of the company?

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      I understand concerns regarding Saudi Arabia’s influence, but it is not practical to list all their involvements every time everywhere. The Magic Leap investment is about 0.06% of what their Public Investment Fund handles in total. PIF also holds 3.26mn Meta shares since late 2022, currently valued twice as much as their investment in Magic Leap, yet nobody demanded this to be disclosed when Quest 3 was released anymore than ownership being mentioned every time Newcastle scores a goal.

      PIF’s share in Google/Alphabet is also worth more than their Magic Leap investment. With USD 776bn in total assets, you’ll find it both hard to avoid them or point out every single of their global investments, even if you limit it to cases where they hold the majority stake. If you played RE 4/7/8 on Quest/PSVR (Capcom) or anything from EA, Take Two, Activision or Nintendo, use any mobile devices (SoftBank -> ARM), ever rode an Uber, flew in a Boing, or watched a Disney movie, billions from Saudi Arabia’s PIF were involved.

      • Devon Copley

        The relevant measure isn’t the amount of the investment but the percentage ownership. PIF owns an enormous share of Magic Leap, far more than the other investments you cite, and as such likely commands outsize influence. It’s relevant.

        • Christian Schildwaechter

          This only happened as by 2020 Magic Leap’s evaluation had dropped by ~93%, with half their staff fired. They had collected more than USD 4bn in funds and debt, incl. some from PIF, that pretty much went up in smoke. In early 2023 PIF then invested another USD 150mn in funds plus USD 300mn in debt. Not for influence, they had the choice between completely losing their previous investment or pumping another USD 450mn into the company to keep it alive, which due to Magic Leap’s very low evaluation got them the majority by default.

          Sort of picking up the pieces, their board members will use their influence mostly to not let that money burn away too. We may not be able to afford betting billions, but PIF can, and if they are lucky and Magic Leap succeeds, they got a hot player in the emerging XR market very cheap that they can then sell again for a lot. If not, they still have their remaining USD 775.55bn to play with. Keeping an eye on Saudi Arabian activities usually makes sense, but the Magic Leap engagement looks to be just about money.

        • Ad

          Yes it’s actually quite impressive that they attempted such lazy sleight of hand.

      • Ad

        You seem to have worked quite hard to frame this in the most invalid duplicitous way possible. Saudi Arabia owns the majority stake in this company, which also has voiced interest in Saudi defense contracts. They own and control it. Literally none of what you said matter because they don’t own a controlling stake in those other companies but they do in this one. You’re arguing that the person who owns a russian gas company doesn’t need to be treated as such because he also owns a couple shares of Starbucks, it’s such a absurd way to derail that it simply has to be intentional.

  • Christian Schildwaechter

    Passthrough AR won’t become a usable alternative to see-through for most work related tasks anytime soon. Sure, you can now walk through Disneyland wearing a Quest 3, but only because it doesn’t require lots of close range activities. A significant part of our brain does hand-eye coordination, using lots of tricks for precise depth perception, like unnoticeable eye side jerks to “add” perspective, causing trouble with eye tracking. Stereo-vision works only at close range, with the eyes constantly changing focus while moving fast, and the brain guestimating depth from blur.

    This plus moving eye balls causes the vergence-accommodation conflict in XR HMDs with fixed focus length and displays. There are no fast enough optics/eye tracking to properly correct it even in labs. Add the human iris, allowing us see at night and during 10000 nits daylight, compared to maybe 100-200 nits making it through pancake lenses, plus other problems, and passthrough is extremely inferior.

    Disneyland works because we use cues like shadows, relative size etc. instead of parallax for objects further away than a few meters, similar to how we recognize depth in a 2D movie. And even though Quest 3 tries to correct depth display for closer objects, avoid hitting nails with a hammer in MR. Don’t expect live AR instructions on how to repair a printer or install expensive machine parts to work well with passthrough. These are complex and skill intensive tasks that could provide a profitable niche for professional see-through devices like Magic Leap. USD 3300 for an HMD with low FoV is less of an issue with USD 150 hourly rates for technicians.

    • wheeler

      Any time I’ve tried passthrough, even when I demoed the quest 3, the image always looked extremely weird and off putting to me. I think it was Jeri Elsworth that described passthrough visuals as being in “the twilight zone” and I think that description is pretty apt. I cannot imagine spending several hours doing work or much of anything this way.

      It is a nice side feature, however, for occasionally taking care of something outside of VR. Maybe AVP will be different but I’m not getting my hopes up.

      In fact, the most interesting part of using passthrough is that it made me realize just how very bizarre VR displays are–I mean with the way that stereo flat VR displays present a scene. With a passthrough headset, you can quickly switch back and forth between peering through the HMD and then lifting it up (so you’re seeing the “real world”), and thus you can directly compare the two for the same “scene”. My conclusion from this is that there are some fundamental differences in the way light is simulated that go well beyond things like pixel density, colors, and so forth, and that by extension VR itself has a long way to go before it can simulate the light of a scene adequately.

      Overall I came to the conclusion that, for AR at least, I would much rather see light from the real world naturally and then just have “decent enough” virtual elements overlaid sparingly. However, I’ve yet to try any see-through AR as of yet anyway. Perhaps the virtual elements are so bad that see-through isn’t worthwhile either, but then my conclusion from this would be that I want neither passthrough AR nor see-through AR for the time being.

  • Christian Schildwaechter

    Karl Guttag covered Magic Leap tech for years and compared ML1 and ML2. ML2 came out as much improved, though he still doubted its usability now targeting industrial application it wasn’t designed for. I never tried either, but really liked the (limited and coarse) dimming zones now allowing actual occlusion, and hope that Magic Leap finds a niche that convinces investors to stick with them.

    It was always clear that AR would be harder than VR, and see-through much harder than pass-through, but everybody seriously underestimated how hard XR would be in general, and how much money and time it would take. Even Meta and Apple with magnitudes larger research budgets postponed their AR glasses by many years, so solving the myriad of remaining issues will be difficult for Magic Leap. And even selling themselves to a large player with deep pockets is now a challenge, with most of their patents taken by banks as collateral for unpaid loans. ML2 is the only waveguide based see-through AR HMD still available to the public, so losing it would stop a lot of valuable experimentation and prototyping with the new medium.