Back in 2016, Magic Leap released a video clip of a breaching augmented reality whale as a backdrop to their freshly redesigned website, something meant to grab the attention of prospective investors, developers, and consumers alike. Now, through Magic Leap’s Helio browser, we can finally see what an augmented reality whale actually looks like running on Magic Leap One.

Here’s a quick refresher in case you don’t remember (Woooah!).

Magic Leap’s Helio browser essentially allows users to pull 3D objects from the web and view them in AR, similar to how WebXR based browsers like Mozilla let you quickly pop into a VR headset and experience lightweight virtual experiences and games without downloading a dedicated executable. There are only a few experiences listed in the ‘Helio Experiments’ section right now: the ‘Majestic Mammal’ whale, a demo called ‘Artistic Escape, and an ‘E-Retailing’ demo.

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The video below was recorded thanks to ML1’s ability to capture footage through the perspective of the user. To company’s ultimate credit, seeing a giant whale—albeit a lower resolution one that’s not nearly as lifelike as the whale seen back in 2016—is still probably pretty impressive in vivo. That said, the direct comparison of concept to reality should definitely set some expectations of what the hardware is capable of.

The Helio-based experience also adds a few more things that may engage kids more than a quick breach of a gymnasium floor. Included in the demo, which was captured by Anima Games, is a host of whale facts.

Check out this hands-on from a dev’s perspective for a more detailed look at what makes Magic Leap tick.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • jeff courtney

    I would like to partake and participate in magic leap only if it drops to 5oo dollars.Praise Jesus !

  • dk
  • MosBen

    Sure, it’s disappointing that the resolution and image occlusion doesn’t work like the demo made it appear. But if there’s a single thing which I think really sells the current concept of VR and AR, it’s the tech’s ability to present a sense of scale. It is pretty cool to see that giant whale flying around in the gym, even if it’s not really what they had us hoping for, that even though The Blu was a super early VR experience, it’s still one of the first things that I show people when I show off my Rift. Having that giant whale swim up and look you in the eye, or be surrounded by hundreds of jellyfish, or coming face to face with a giant squid; it just blows everyone away.

    The feeling of “presence”, the feeling of “being there”, is as much or more about scale and perspective as it is about super fancy graphics that push our modern cards to the limit.

    • That’s not the tech. it’s the artist making that look so cool. Even the hololens can do that, and the hololens is not that great. There are other devices already doing far better in terms of resolution and FOV.

    • Jerald Doerr

      Omg…. Whos your daddy and what does he do?

  • Foreign Devil

    These videos make me want to call Ghostbusters!

  • lol even the hololens can do that. yawwnnnn…..

  • James Thornton Art Studio

    This would be like comparing the promise of VR to some basic WebVR demo. For what it is, it’s pretty cool to have a giant whale swim out of the internet and into the sky.

    Coming from a 3d artist / Unity dev, you could 100% make a closer representation of the original whale video. You would just need a more realistic 3d model, a natural looking breach animation, and some good water particle splashes and waves.

    Oh, and light. This scene isn’t even using light. Just an unlit diffuse texture with some light baked in. Notice how the shadows don’t move. Doesn’t have normal maps or anything. That’s probably because it’s on the web and needs to load fast.

    The main notable difference is no matter what you did, it would still have the additive hologram look against a tinted background. You could still add tons more visual quality and realism though, especially running a native application on the system. So this isn’t really a 1:1 comparison of marketing vs. capability.

    It’s pretty obvious that Dr. Grordbort’s will be ML’s Robo Recall. That will a proper look at the upper limits of the device. No damn way they can top a VR shooter with that FOV, but it also sounds fun to run around your house taking cover behind furniture.

  • Little disappointed they didn’t put the effort into making the wake from it plunging back into the pavement. Much of the effects in the original video, which was pre-rendered and masked in, could be done in real-time using 2D sprites and a wave ripple sheet. It’s a bit harder then just modeling a whale, but definitely do-able.

    • dk

      they r super fucking lazy as far as making apps for it…. when u consider around 1500 employees and around 2.4 billion …they have 5 apps and 2 r not released yet and u use the browser with a on screen mouse controlled with the touch pad

  • With $500 in display & inside/out tracking hardware (still working on my $300 converted Acer WMR) & an Intel $500 NUC, I created my own AR headset. Sure I don’t have two “photonic” lens planes to provide DOF (if really works as described), but the results are just as good, in fact better due to the wider FOV. (see video)

    And there is no reason to think you won’t get a similar experience with the number of other < $1000 AR headset being released this year (Dreamglass & MIX). Plus, this demo can also be done with the Mira Reality AR headset and an iPhone since the persons in either of these demos (one submitted in the comments below) are only rotating their heads.

    It is also telling that the demo was intentionally made at night to diminish the transparency effect. The demo shown below in the comments shows a better illustration of not only the level of transparency, but the lack of proper occlusion, which probably means the room was not scanned first (or not available in the Helio app), which I think will be a pain everytime you step into another room or it forgets it had already scanned the room you were in.

    Finally, if this is composite stream from a RGB camera, why not fake it all the way and allow proper occlusion like what you can do with ARKit and ARCore, as seen in the vidcap frame below at our "VR/AR Nuts & Bolts" Meetup two months ago with Josh, talking about design interactivity with the Hololens, which even with the two years of trial & error developers have written about, Magic Leap UI still seems premature.

  • Darban

    $2 Billion whale. Fuck you too Magic Leap.

  • brubble

    HAHA! What a farce.

  • oompah

    Thumbs up to magic leap
    waveguide optics is futuristic

    • fuyou2


  • sebrk

    Big fuck you to Magi Leap and in particilar their lying shit CEO. Magic Leap is a step backwards overpromising and heavily underdelivering. Basically singlehandedly ramming the whole AR industry into the ground with lies lies and more lies. I hope it just dies and the world continues without it.

    • fuyou2

      Agreed 100%

  • WyrdestGeek

    This might have looked cool if magic leap had not just spent the last several years sucking up all the attention and money that it has.

    This is progress– but is it really $2 billion+ style progress?

    And what of those celebrity endorsements? Does this demo justify those?

  • impurekind

    Notice the huge difference between the bullshot and what the final equivalent looks like. :-o

  • This is not slightly comparable with the early days demo. This is just a 3D model floating around.

  • brandon9271

    Downgraded… lol