Earlier this week, Recode reported that Google is “set to lead a huge investment in Magic Leap.” The article cites “sources” which say that Google could be leading a $500 million funding round for the company, possibly including capital from Andreessen Horowitz which previously invested in Oculus. Magic Leap has been in stealth mode since its inception and no one seems to have a concrete idea about what their “Cinematic Reality” tech is. We went digging to see what we could uncover.

At a most basic level, Magic Leap appears to be working on a wearable imaging technology which the company seems to think is groundbreaking. The few bits of information on the company’s website contain trademarked phrases like “It’s time to bring magic back into the world,” and “The human brain is still the best display ever made.” Magic Leap’s CEO, Rony Abovitz, says “we believe [our technology] will be the most natural and human-friendly wearable computing interface in the world.”

In an interview with the South Florida Business Journal in February, Abovitz said “When you see this, you will see that this is computing for the next 30 or 40 years. To go farther and deeper than we’re going, you would be changing what it means to be human.”

With little to no readily available info to go on, Magic Leap sounds like snake oil. But there are several compelling reasons to chase this wild goose:

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$50m in Seed and Series A

The company has already secured some $50 million in Seed and Series A investments, the latter having closed in February of this year. It doesn’t look like the details of the deal were made public, but a press release announcing the deal quotes Richard Taylor, co-founder of Weta Workshop, and announces him as being on Magic Leap’s Board of Directors, indicating that he and/or Weta were likely involved in the investment—which is odd, because Weta is a special effects and prop company… based in New Zealand.

A Founder with a Track Record of Success

magic leap rony abovitz
Rony Abovitz, Founder & CEO of Magic Leap. Photo courtesy South Florida Business Journal

Magic Leap’s founder and CEO, Rony Abovitz is far from a first-time college dropout entrepreneur. According to LinkedIn, Abovitz received his Masters degree in biomedical engineering. He also co-founded Mako Surgical, which was sold to Stryker for $1.65 billion in September, 2013. Abovitz is also well vetted on LinkedIn.

Impressive Employee Pedigree

Magic Leap also has an impressive repertoire of employees for a company that’s been in stealth since its inception. LinkedIn lists 109 people affiliated with the company, including Ann-Marie Harbour, a producer who’s worked on projects for Nike, EA, Old Spike, and Skype and is now Executive Producer at Magic Leap; Henk Vlietstra, an experienced businessman who’s worked with TNT, DHL, and others, now holding the title of “Executive Officer” at Magic Leap; and Graeme Devine who’s worked as VP of R&D at Virgin Games, a Game Designer at iD Software, Lead Game Designer at Ensemble Studios and Microsoft, and has also worked in a gaming capacity at Apple.

Ok, so there’s reason to pay attention (as long as we ignore this)…

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  • I’ve been trying to dig up information all day about Magic Leap… Should have checked here first. The potential of what they’re talking about sounds incredible. After reading the patent descriptions you posted above I’m convinced it’s going to be something truly spectacular. It would have to be pretty convincing to attract a 500m investment from Google.

    Thanks for posting!

    • Ben Lang

      Don’t forget, we don’t have any confirmation or corroboration of the claim that there’s a $500m round on the table, just one unsourced report. Though it would be awesome if their tech is as great as they are making it out to be.

  • elecman

    From NY Times (July 18, 2014):
    “…before creating Magic Leap in 2010, said that his system would even offer a resolution close to the power of the human eye”.

    I hope the tech can generate a FOV of 100+ degrees.

  • Joe Nickence

    Without anyone showing me anything, I’m not about to get all hyped up over this. I’m at the point where anything AR or immersively VR related, will be nothing but Snake Oil, as you said. “We’re waiting until it’s perfect before we release it to the public” simply sounds like “we have cool hi tech toys and you can’t play with them”.

    • cly3d

      You know your stuff Joe! :)

  • cly3d

    I’m skeptical. A lot of “Devine’s” lines sound like tele-evangelism. Yet of-course, something is surely in there if Google is looking at it.

    Meanwhile..>> “…Among the company’s 36 trademark applications are many references to comic books, specifically relating to what sounds like augmented reality functionality. “Comic books enhanced with specialized covers; graphic novels enhanced with specialized covers,” reads one of the applications.

    “Imagine if the imagination could imagine” is probably the zaniest among the trademark applications, along with the company’s oft-used phrases, “Cinematic Reality,” “A Rocketship for the Mind,” and what sounds like an app store for their hardware called “The Magic Shop.”

    Oh c’mon.. tell me this doesn’t sound like tele-evangelism and hyperbole!
    A patent for Graphic novels with specialized covers? if it’s “Magic Book” AR, then it’s been baked a long time ago.

    Hopefully, it’s something radically different and of a higher fidelity than Vuzix’s that you guys covered back in 2012? https://www.roadtovr.com/vuzix-smart-glasses-augmented-reality-glasses/

  • dvoshart

    After briefly skimming the patents it seems like it is a wide FOV google glass. However: the image projected to the eye is a light field image.

    This is awesome but the problems I see are:

    1: Computing power required to do light fields are pretty expensive. Hopefully they use the information from the z-buffer to create the light field. Even if this was the case the eyeball moves left and right you would pick up on the occusion artifacts.

    2.The next problem is that no device has been able to give sub 20ms latency for capturing scene information.

    3.And it appears that everything is additive. You can’t therefore black something out. This limit’s game design.

    • eturner

      Good points. But take another look at the patents and you’ll see they have a solution for #3 — one of their HMD patents describes a “mask LCD / mask display” that can selectively block out incoming light at specific X/Y offsets — this allows them to apply opacity against portions..or all…of the outside world

  • Noam

    It’s really funny reading todays headlines over the internet claiming that Google invests in “Magic Leap” to go head to head against Facebook’s “Oculus Rift”.

    This is bullshit.

    The Magic Leap solution is for augmented reality – they are using light field screen to be able to project 3D images on top of reality. This is something Google needs *badly* for their Google Glass to be a sucess (currently Google Glass can not project 3D images on top of reality, and this makes it a very low quality device for augmented reality).

    The novelty of Magic Leap is not using light field screens, but solving the low spatial resolution, that was an inherent problem for any light field screen created to date.

    To sum this up, Magic Leap is all about being able to do augmented reallity properly, which is what Google needs for their Glasses, it has nothing to do with complete virtual reality devices like the oculus rift, which do not try to augment reality in any way, rather re-create it entirely.

    • Snarl

      that’s not really correct … when they are able to mask the screen in real-time ( how awesome is that !! ) to block outside light.. you have a 100% rift replacement …(except that it is lighter and thinner and most probably more ) .. so a perfect VR AND AR device …

      vrtron.com