Magic Leap One Developer Review – An Ambitious Headset with Untapped Potential

It’s real and it’s here — but does it live up to the hype?


Part 3: The Operating System

The Lumin OS is quite pretty, albeit safe in its design — Magic Leap has found some interesting ways to play with color, depth and movement, and it pays off. The UI is responsive and the sound design is particularly sublime, making everything a joy to utilize (really, all the sounds in this just make me really happy).

This being praised, the UI is not without issues and can be minimalist to a fault. Me and several others have sometimes found ourselves feeling lost, not knowing how to accomplish a task due to lack of information being displayed in its beautiful but vague floating ‘windows’.

In my first hours with the device I liked the user-interface, but as time went on I started noticing how the user experience doesn’t make full use of the hardware it’s running on.

As responsive as the user interface was, it all feels like it was designed after a 3DoF controller, even though you have something far more powerful in your hand. The interface never invites physicality into the mix — you can’t touch objects, buttons or menus with your hand, controller or head. It all feels like a missed opportunity.

I think this is for two reasons:

  1. They wanted the interactions in the OS to not make the low field-of-view too apparent.
  2. At the time the OS was designed, Magic Leap was not expecting to have a 6 DoF controller in their release hardware.
Physical interactions didn’t carry over from early concept videos. While pretty, the Magic Leap UI is safe and something you’d expect out of a 3DoF controller. | Image courtesy Magic Leap

Other elements in the UI also seem to show that Lumin with was designed with a different hardware configuration in mind: hand-tracking is ignored throughout; eye-tracking never came to my aid to help me select objects or keyboard keys (it’s all done with the track-pad, which is often inaccurate); you place virtual objects by moving your head, not your controller, which feels clunky.

All of this makes Lumin OS serviceable and pretty, but lacking cohesion with the hardware it runs on — it’s like the teams working on the technology were separated from the teams working on the OS and they didn’t get to meet early enough to incorporate the cool tech ML1 possesses in its interface.

Part 4: The Launch Apps

Magic Leap One comes with a few applications that are interesting, but feel like sources of inspiration more than fully fledged products. However, there are two exceptions: Tónandi and Helio (which we’ll cover in just a bit).

Tónandi is an MR experience that transforms your environment into a number of musical alien landscapes. It’s by far the best showcase of best-practices and abstract storytelling potential and, disappointingly, also the only launch app that makes use of hand-tracking.

Another good example is Project Create, which turns your room into a creative toy-box. You can create forests on the floor, spawn characters that interact with one another on top of a table and design elaborate contraptions utilizing the many versatile tools that the experience provides.

Project Create in action

It’s a nice and playful, but I wanted to see more. After hearing so much press about Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders I was excited to boot it up — only to learn that it’ll be available later this fall.

There is an application called Social that will allow you to have avatar calls with other users, but these calls are currently unsupported. This was slightly frustrating, mostly because the missing feature is not mentioned anywhere in the application — after an hour of trial and error, I had to ask a Magic Leap employee what was going on to find out that the feature won’t be ready for months.

Image courtesy Magic Leap

Given the current state of the Magic Leap app store, there’s not enough to keep you occupied for more than an hour as a consumer, which really positions this as a device designed for creating.

Like with the OS, the currently available apps do not use most of the input modalities of the device. And this leads to something interesting: Magic Leap’s developer community will likely outmatch Magic Leap creatively and become the real metric of what this device can do. This is the opposite of what happened with the HoloLens, whose launch apps were such a good showcase of the available features that the creator community never quite matched them.

Continued on Page 3: Helio and the MR Web


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  • dk
    • Lucas Rizzotto

      Hey! I fixed it in the article, so this one is corrected. Thanks for the heads up ( :

  • NooYawker

    Can you do a full review of the Hololens? Does Magic Leaps device do anything better than the 2 year old Hololens?

    • Mac

      It sounds like it has more input options, eye tracking, a wider field of view and a more powerful cpu/gpu in the pocket computer. I was surprised about the eye tracking, I had no idea they planned to include this. It’s clearly an early dev kit of what’s to come for AR.

      • JJ

        yeah but every developer says that ML doesnt use the eye tracking for anything, sooo its possible but nobody knows if its any good yet. The FOV is slightly larger, by a small fraction while the details are much worse especially in the alignment of the RGB. Not really more input options tbh, maybe plug n play for non programmers, but with the hololense being in the windows environment meant that I had various ways to hook up all sorts of devices.

    • Anonymous247

      You should compare the 3D video. Can Hololens open 8 3D movies at once ?

  • beestee

    It is nice to finally have this thing grounded in reality, and by the looks of these impressions it seems like there is a lot of potential lurking within it. Show me a few killer applications and a UX update that thoroughly embrace all the tech available within the hardware and I would consider a purchase even at it’s current price.

    • jj

      any potential you see in this, was also in the hololense, 2 years ago.

      • beestee

        Eye tracking, multi-focal display, and a 6 degrees of freedom controller?

        • jj

          those arent game changers or enough innovation to set this apart from a product that came out two years ago… and like others and i have said nobodies used the eye tracking. literally the only demo they have is blink where they can tell if you’re blinking or not.

          • beestee

            But that is hardware that is in the ML1 that is not in the HLv1 is it not? You said the HLv1 had all of the same potential two years ago…

            As I said above, I would only consider purchasing if the hardware was properly leveraged by the software, which currently it is not.

          • JJ

            yeah but none of those hardware features make a difference. there are only 2 multi-focal displays and ML themselves said 6 is the ideal minimum…. plus the 6dof controller is via magnets and subpar compared to other 6dof controllers so to me its not the same. and the eye tracking helps with the PID but thats it because the multi-focal feature barely works.

            plus my hololense remembers what room im in upon tarcking while the ml appears to never do so.

          • beestee

            I think it is too early to say they would make a difference or not before they have been developed for.

            Given some time, I bet the spatial mapping will improve.

            There has to be a reason it is $700 cheaper, right? It can’t all be unicorns and rainbows.

          • MosBen

            I would understand taking the position that if you already won a Hololens it probably doesn’t make sense to also get a Magic Leap One, but that can’t apply to most people. If someone is interested in buying an AR headset today and is willing to spend a significant amount of money, it seems like the Magic Leap One is the best option available today. Granted, I’d tell such a person to wait until CES 2019 to see if Hololens 2 is announced, just as a comparison, but whether eye tracking, 6DOF, a slightly wider FOV, etc. are game changers or not, they’re clearly upgrades over what Hololens offers.

  • Lucidfeuer

    I’d like to try one, but I already know I’ll get the same impression as the HoloLens because well…that’s exactly what the Magic Leap (if it ever existed) would be no more than that.

  • Foreign Devil

    thanks for the review! Nice to see something substantial about this.

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  • Gato Satanista

    The thing is: Magic leap has not fulfilled their promise. This is clearly not a consumer-ready product. Buy it if you are a serious developer who wants to develop some custom AR sollution/service for large companies. If you just want to play games or use some professional apps, stay away for now. Unless you have a pocket full of cash and doesn’t care to buy a new dust collector (for now) device.

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  • thewebdood

    Great write-up Lucas! Have you played with the actual APIs yet?

  • thewebdood

    I’m with you on the FOV bit, BTW. Over-rated metric that people focus on (sic) for no reason. It’s a solved problem that will eventually be a non-topic.

    • benz145

      I disagree. While there is a point where increasing it further mostly serves to enhance immersion, there’s a minimum threshold which is key for real usability, where users can mostly interact with the augmented world as they would the real world, without having to re-train their ingrained proprioceptive model to account for objects disappearing outside of the active engagement area.. 90 degrees is thought by many to roughly meet that threshold.

      Not only that, but assuming it will be solved is an oversimplification in my opinion. It’s actually a very complex problem that right now has no obvious answers without lots more R&D.

    • Dan Lokemoen

      Plenty of people who have tried this and the Hololens say they feel like they’re looking through a postage stamp. It’s a real problem for contemporary MR.