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 5: Helio and the MR Web

Magic Leap One’s WebMR browser Helio is one of its coolest features. Simple yet flexible, Helio (along with the ‘Prismatic’ framework) will allow anyone to create a MR-friendly web-page with just a little bit of Javascript code.

Examples show how navigating the web can be made much more interactive, informative and generally useful through thoughtful 3D elements as MR computers become the norm. See a piece of furniture you want to buy? Just drag it in your living room and you can see how it fits within your space. Want to inspect a location mentioned in a news article? Just get up and walk around it as you read.

According to Magic Leap CEO, Rony Abovitz, there’s no full WebVR support on Helio as of now, but integrations between VR & MR could soon be a possibility.

Part 6: The Field-Of-View

Magic Leap One has the best FoV of its class, although it’s still relatively small. But how noticeable is it?

Let me start by saying that I don’t think a large field-of-view is that important in this stage of MR — it’s an engineering problem that’s bound to be solved and it’s simply a matter of time. What I’m much more interested in is what the device is capable of doing in all other areas and how that could change how Mixed Reality experiences are built.

That being said, Magic Leap was smart in hiding its limitations. The dark parts of the headset cover a lot of your field of view, helping you focus on the center of the display. The darker lenses combined with the hardware-covered up field-of-view actually immerse you a bit like a VR headset would, which I found surprising — when using the headset I immediately became less aware of my surroundings and the people around me.

To further help hide the low field-of-view, many applications have their holograms fade nicely on the edges of the visor and it works very well. Objects were consistently going out of my view in Tónandi but I barely ever noticed them due to this trick and their semi-transparent visual style.

But not all apps implement this, and the FoV can become more noticeable in apps like Project Create, which allow you to paint with your controller outside the visible area of the display. Overall, the wider FoV is a welcome addition and it’s up to designers to create mechanics that leverage it while also hiding its limitations.

Conclusion — Should You Buy This?

Image courtesy Magic Leap

If you’re a consumer, this product is probably a few years from being ready for you.

If you’re an enthusiast, you should give it a year so Magic Leap can have time to roll out all of their launch apps and developers can bring life to the store.

But if you’re an experienced creator who’s passionate about MR computing and want to take a part in it while it’s still being written — the Magic Leap One is the cheapest and best all-around mobile MR headset in the market.

It’s not perfect — the device still has a lot of room for improvement and it doesn’t beat old headsets on all accounts. But it tries much more than anyone else, giving developers the strongest set of tools available to re-imagine computing.

There’s still a lot of unknowns in regards to the future of MR and the role Magic Leap will play in it. It too asks that developers take a leap.

I really hope that they continue to improve on what they’ve built so this can go from being a good devkit to a landmark device. As it stands, the Magic Leap One is rich with technology, but still has flaws and unexplored potential.

I took a leap because I love MR and wanted to find out what that potential was — but it’s up to you to find out if you feel the same way.


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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.