Magic Leap Chief Game Designer Talks Internal Demos and “Everyday Adventure” Format for AR


Speaking at the Games for Change 2017 conference, Magic Leap “Chief Gaming Wizard” Graeme Devine offered some insight into the types of AR experiences the company has been building internally, and offers up what he believes will be the format of AR content which will “define a generation.”

Graeme Devine is a long time games industry vet, having worked at studios such as Id Software, Ensemble Studios, Microsoft, and more. He’s now been working with Magic Leap for nearly four years. During his keynote presentation at Games for Change 2017, Devine told the audience that a big part of his job is helping the company think about what augmented reality (which Magic Leap calls “mixed reality) really is, and how content should be designed for it.

Part of trying to figure out how to design compelling AR apps lead the company to “Pitchfest,” internal AR game jams where anyone in the company could pitch an idea for an AR app. From those jams came a number of internal demos which helped the company think about what AR apps are and what they should do. Devine says each pitch was given a set of criteria:

  • Five Mile Test – if you’re five miles from your house and realize you’ve forgotten the experience, is it compelling enough that you’d go back for it?
  • Toothbrush Test – is it something people will use every day?
  • The Halo Test – will people buy an AR device because of this?
  • Innovation – Does it make something in the world so useful that people are sad when they don’t get to use it in AR?
  • Does it convincingly interact with the world via world meshing and spatialized audio, and what are the controls?
  • Can Magic Leap learn from it?

Devine shared a slide showing names of some of the pitches like Secret Lairs, Grimoire, Toon Town, Gadgeteer, Room Advisor, SensAbility, Toon Town, Impulse, Tag, and more.

Image courtesy Games for Change

He highlighted a number in particular, like Vroom!, an AR racing game where players create a track that fills their room and race miniature cars on it. Devine said that while racing the cars in AR was a blast, controlling them was a challenge, and the company didn’t come across a control scheme that really fit.

Devine said the company’s favorite project to from from Pitchfest has been Cat Astrophe!.

Image courtesy Games for Change

“In Cat Astrophe! the idea was you had a controller that was either a water bottle or a laser pointer, or a little cat toy with a bell on it. And you had to herd the cats into their carrier […] and it was 20 cats. And you had these toys down on the floor that they would use and see. You’d put the tube down and they’d recognize it was there and they’d do interesting things,” Devine said. “There was a line to play this Pitchfest demo… people lined up for hours to go and play this thing. And what we noticed was, every single person would use their feet to try and herd the cats. Didn’t do a thing, but they thought it did!”

Devine said that the company has learned a lot about designing compelling AR apps from the Pitchfest process, and also saw that leaders emerged from various parts of the company which they might not have otherwise identified.

Magic Leap Updates Site in Preparation for the "journey to launch"

Turning his attention toward the scope and format of AR apps, he noted that it took some 20 years after the introduction of the television for the industry to settle on episodic formats for TV narrative. It’s likely that it will also take a long time for AR to find the format which suits it best, though Devine offered a prediction of what it might be; he calls it “everyday adventure”: persistent AR experiences that co-exist with the user.

He described what it might be like to partake in an everyday adventure in AR with a ghost girl named Alice:

“Alice is part of your life. She is part of your home. She is perhaps the character that you talk to the most. You talk to Alice more than any other human. She is conversant. She’s real to you.”

He continued on to paint a picture of an experience that you don’t turn on and off like other forms of media, but instead, the ‘everyday adventure,’ weaves throughout your real life; at any time an adventure could be just around the corner. This type of AR experience, Devine believes, will “define a generation.”

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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."
  • Kevin Williams

    So the uncomfortable question – how long should the media cover ML without any actual proof of the release hardware being able to achieve “any” of the scope proffered by these enthusiastic executives?

    RtVR asks us to watch a nearly 30-minute presentation, which shows zero hardware, and claims many big ideas that are so broad in approach that they smell all too much like a pitch and Snake oil advertisement, (like an elephant in your hands).

    I was prepared to give ML the benefit of the doubt the first missed hardware demo back in 2016, and then the second and even the third. But I think that its time for some responsible journalism from the tech media.

    Remove the oxygen of publicity from the company till they deliver their first DK system and achieve one of their goals – because if you keep hyping them up, and allow themselves to dig a even bigger hole, the responsibility for the collapse and implosion in AR that will follow the reality of their position, will be laid at your door.

    • dk

      2020 :P but withing 6 months a dev kit should be out
      also he is always giving more or less the same talk

      • chuan_l

        Some dev kits were going out last year —
        The Magic Leap content people were definitely on the GDC show floor meeting and talking to developers. I went up to chat with Kite & Lightning after their production talk and guess who beat me to the queue ?

        • dk

          yes they have mentioned some program they have with developers…..but as far as I remember they were going to have dev kits that anyone can buy pretty much identical to the final thing as early as the end of 2018 or beginning of 2019

          • chuan_l

            It never really works like that —
            Developers are brought on to make ” showcase ” content to launch the platform. So they get engineering samples , give feedback and then it goes into production.

          • dk

            yes they need to develop the platform and sdks and some apps……..but after that …..that’s exactly how microsoft is doing it right now with the hololens …..anyone can buy the dev kit

          • chuan_l

            There’s problems with that approach too —
            The only decent apps to date have been the ones MS paid for [ Asobo Studios ” Holotour ” and ” Fragments ” ]. Everything else has been junk since enterprise developers have little or no T-shaped skills across 3d / animation / and other important areas.

            This is a field that needs ” breadth ” more than ” depth ” when it comes to pockets + telescopes. Though at the moment its agencies who are reaping the rewards for commercial applications. The industrial AR folks are already using custom hardware.

          • dk

            I don’t really care if they sell it ….but they need to show it and stop with the bullshit tactics……. the cool part about being open … there r thousands of developers constantly uploading videos of the hololens and what it’s capable of and the limitations…..and it’s not bullshit promotional videos it’s actual demos

          • Laurence Nairne

            We all need to stop talking about Magic Leap until they actually show something of value, and I’m going to keep talking derisively about Magic Leap until they’ve shown me something of value.

          • NooYawker

            So you prefer to have nothing as opposed to “only a few decent apps”?

          • chuan_l

            No , on the contrary —
            MR / VR hardware needs to get out to the developers who have a reason to make ” interesting ” content. Not the dot Net heros who re package the Unity Hololens tutorials and upload them to the appstore. Hololens will die a slow death if the 2018 version doesn’t reach more developers.

      • Kevin Williams

        We hope that they make their December dev kit milestone. I would seriously like to be proven wrong. But am too only a bunny to not see the questions in their structure.

        No matter how hard those with vested interests try and attack my posts!

    • Chingus Dundlawn

      I don’t really understand what they have to lose by reporting on it. They’re not supposed to be politically motivated in the first place, and whether Magic Leap is a “scam” or not remains to be seen. In either case, it shouldn’t be a surprise that any company with a valuation in the billions that works on a field directly related to what an outlet reports gets reported on.
      As for an implosion, you seem to really overestimate how many people are even aware Magic Leap exists, let alone read news on them. There can’t be an “implosion” if the company never even publicized that well in the first place. Though…not that I understand how you can be so certain that an AR crash would be causally related even if that was the case.

      • NooYawker

        They have a lot to lose, like losing investors which is what is keeping the company afloat.

        • Chingus Dundlawn

          I’m talking about the press, not Magic Leap. Their job is to report, so why shouldn’t they report?

          • NooYawker

            Ah. Ok. The media does what they do. Relay news, so yes I agree with you. They report on the press conference, that is their job.
            For the record while I don’t think magic leap is a scam it’s pretty obvious they’re just another AR company that’s lagging behind Microsoft and hololens. I’m sure years ago their concept was mind blowing. At this point they’re just another face in the crowd with a lot of investors.

      • user

        It doesnt matter. This Kevin Williams clown comes out every time there’s a report on Magic Leap and writes his nonsense about “snake oil”. He is only here to hate.

        >>I am so concerned that the more they play “guess what we have” the more they are damaging the AR market.
        I am sorry, but I see them as Snake-oil merchants and until they show something “better than Hololens can do now” – they look like a scam*.<>It is time that face the facts that it can save its credibility, or keep favour with the ML guys – but not do both! The whole reason for the invite to DEVELOP was to offer a platform to the team to regain credibility after a number of abortive promised presentations of their technology to prove the rumors of its “snake-oil” status was unfounded.<>I think we really need to be firm with those that try the secret hyperbole approach to commerce – if they do not deliver, they need to be named and shamed. This industry is far too vulnerable to allow this kind of ‘snake oil’ approach, and the legal spat with ex-employees that exploded onto the news should have all of us less willing to pay lip service to this kind of fluff pieces.<<

        • Kevin Williams

          Who is the real “clown” here?

          • user

            alright. since you are a little bit slow, i will say it again and very clear: you are the clown.

    • Mike Kleinsteuber

      Wait till December when all will be revealed

      • Kevin Williams

        December is here and we have….. nothing from ML… oh, back to the original question!

    • VR Geek

      Could not agree more Kevin. It all feels like the establishment doing their things. We will see but I am very skeptical. Love to be wrong.

    • Graham J ⭐️

      I agree – this smells a lot like trying to distract from the fact that their hardware isn’t ready. If it was ready they’d let the dev community figure out the use cases; they don’t need to do it for us.

    • Jan Bajana

      Magic Leap was always secret. They never showed anything. So they do not have so much feedback. This presentation was poor, no technology no video with AR, even no nice design. Just hope technology will be incredible good after release.

  • NooYawker

    So he talked a lot of shit, and showed more photoshopped and cgi stuff of what “could” be possible with Magic Leap. Good stuff.

  • David Herrington

    Honestly, I’m just tired of hearing about Magic Leap without some real tech shown.

  • yag

    Awake me when there is something to see.

  • fuyou2

    FUCKYOU2 MagicLeap… Stop Talking Bullshit And Show Something!!!

    • chuan_l

      — I’m liking this irreverence [ + qualitative approach ]

  • Lucidfeuer

    I don’t need to see anything, I just need to hear anything credible that makes sense in terms of hardware or software reality. I didn’t, a single time, from the first bullshit apologetic Wired article to this talk, this is all the same empty “talking to say nothing” non-arguments we’ve heard.

    They’re either very bad liars or very bad PRs, but when they do show/release a first set of AR glasses and people realise it’s nothing more or better than current BS AR glasses (which are non-products and nobody including mechanics or engineers use), the tax-washing fest is over for their investors.

    You know what, if in the midst of the credibility pressure they’ve taken therefor the actual glasses they started developing, they manage to lay a few legit patents and software advancements, there’ll still be something to win for the common folk.

  • chuan_l

    This is already a thing in Los Angeles —
    Perhaps inspired by Punch drunk’s ” Sleep no more ” there’s a groundswell of immersive theatre productions taking place in real locations. Check out the ” No Proscenium ” podcast for interviews and updates :
    [ ]

  • As always Graeme is a really inspiring speaker!
    It’s great to hear someone that truly gets it, has put so much thought into Mixed Reality and actually knows how to use the term correctly and not as some form of marketing term.

    Having a think about it now and than will re-watch :)

  • I can say with first hand knowledge that Kevin Williams is an awesome guy–super friendly and very knowledgeable. Definitely sign up for his emails.

    That being the case, I believe in this case there is enough evidence that Magic Leap has had a positive impact on the AR industry–how many of us would be even talking about AR if it wasn’t for them? Apple certainly wouldn’t have released ARKit and Hololens would still be stuck in an R&D Lab. AR was really only a cool science project (or failure if you include Google Glass) until Magic Leap showed the potential.

    I haven’t been invited to see their demos so my opinion is only that, personal opinion.

    • Justos

      The thing is, magic leap hasn’t shown us potential of anything. its all steam until they show a product.

    • Graham J ⭐️

      No way, AR has been around in many forms for much longer than Magic Leap. Their (somewhat fake) videos get the imagination going but none of the ideas shown are original.