Born out of the founder’s lifetime love affair with sci-fi, surrealism, and a fortuitous road trip across the US, the story of Magic Leap’s founding reads like a beat generation novel about discovering magic in ordinary experiences. The company couches it as “the story of an art project, turned tech startup, turned global company building the future of computing.” And after Magic Leap’s latest video, we still don’t have a clear idea what that future is.
Admittedly, it’s only part one of “the whole story,” the rest of which is coming soon, writes the company on their updated website, now devoid of the founder Rony Abovitz’s rambling blog posts and the company’s feel-good ‘unicorn marketing’ that was in its place only two weeks ago. With the website’s overhaul, many expected a change in messaging, a more sober look at the supposed world-changing technology now reportedly climbing to a $6 billion valuation and rumored to start shipping dev kits in the next six months, but the latest video doesn’t exactly do that.
In a casual conversation with Abovitz set to a backdrop of employees assembling from all over the globe amidst bog standard inspirational ‘startup music’ (you know the type), he explains the origins of the company, taking it back to a road trip to Austin where Abovitz’s band was playing at SXSW—sometime around 2010 or 2011.
“Computers were always this thing that you had to do inside the computer, so it’s one of those notions that when you grow up [you say to yourself], “wouldn’t it be cool if you could have computing spill outside the computer, almost like an art project,” says Abovitz. “I think Magic Leap really did start out as an art project first, and then it turned out like, maybe there’s some science behind this that we could turn into something real, and it turned out there was.”
“[The history of the company] is very wild, because it’s an idea that started out in my little garage. I have a garage studio, and there’s a little thing painted that says ‘Magic Leap Studios’, it was hand-painted on it. And that was the pretty humble origin.”
It’s a bit of a stretch to call the origins of Magic Leap “humble,” as prior to its founding, Abovitz sold his Florida-based medical device company MAKO Surgical Corp. to Stryker for $1.65 billion, but as one of the most well-funded startups in history that still hasn’t shown a prototype outside of the confines of NDA, everything is relative.
The degree of rosiness retroactively applied to it origin story notwithstanding, it’s hard to say if we should be expecting something substantive in the next installment of the company’s history, or more of the same. Frankly, it would be nicer to see a the headset’s unique capabilities like in the video below than another belabored ego stroke.