Despite Magic Leap finally breaking the long silence in December and revealing its first headset, Magic Leap One, our curiosity was far from satiated. If anything, Leap raised more questions than it answered.
But company CEO Rony Abovitz, holder of the keys to the mixed reality kingdom, went on stage at Recode’s Code Media conference and let slip a few more details.
Here are 10 new things we just learned about Magic Leap.
It’s partnering with the NBA so you can watch games through the goggles
Joining Abovitz on stage was NBA commissioner Adam Silver as the two announced a partnership, along with Turner Sports, to show live games on the Magic Leap One headset. This will work with an app that will let people view the games they see on TNT with the goggles, but with a whole new perspective.
“So you’re watching the game and you can instantly know statistics and probabilities, and then beyond that, where the courtside seat is here, you can then be on the court, you can be over the court, you can have all sort of different perspectives,” said Silver.
Abovitz also painted a picture of what the experience might be like: “You have can five or six or seven or eight televisions running different camera angles. So suddenly you could be anywhere, we could be sitting right here and throw up a bunch of TV screens and now you’re watching one game from different perspectives or all your favorite games at the same time.”
Silver added: “For us, the opportunity is an issue of scale, that our buildings are largely sold outs and certainly the court side seats are sold out in every arena,” said Turner. “Last year a billion people watched some portion of an NBA game. Which is quite unbelievable and our games are distributed in 210 countries, but they’re not quite sharing in that experience Rony talked about, those so-called lifelong memories people have had from going to sporting events.”
Shaq’s a fan
In a pre-recorded video we also got to see Shaquille O’Neal endorsing Magic Leap, significant because it was the first time we saw the headset actually being worn by someone, rather than just looking at digital renders.
Magic Leap even created a digital version of Shaq that users will be able to see when they don the headset. “When I saw it, it made me feel like I had a twin brother,” said the NBA legend. “I put these glasses on I saw the most beautiful, tall black guy I’ve ever seen in my life, and I was like, oh, that’s me”.
It’s really social
Abovitz stressed that the glasses won’t block out the world in the way VR headsets do, and how important it was to not isolate the user. “You won’t lose the social aspect of being together,” he said.
It was like joining Space X when it was just a hanger and a whiteboard saying ‘We’re going to shoot people into orbit’
“Say we’re watching together… I don’t lose you guys. I don’t lose seeing you. I still see you, I can still see family, you can still watch your kids. So you still see the real world, and then you have digital things not superimposed on it, they’re just integrated into it.
“You might have a 60-inch real tv; now you have five digital TVs that just appeared. And you may have a part of your family room that didn’t have anything before, and suddenly there’s part of a basketball there – but you still see your dog running around. So you don’t lose the social aspect of being together.”
Added Abozitz: “You can go to the kitchen, grab a beer, you’re still watching the game, you can say hi to friends, go back and sit down.”
It’s aware of what you’re doing
Not only will you be aware of what’s going on around you, so will the glasses themselves. “If you get up and go do something it can just pause everything because it knew you got up and went somewhere. You can go upstairs and get something, suddenly the game reappears upstairs, said Abovitz.
“So it has this awareness of what you’re doing. So it takes everything you say about, say, normal television and amplifies that.”
The headset has shrunk a lot since 2014
The company literally started in Abovitz’s garage, and it’s come a hell of a long way since. “If you go to Magic Leap fall 2014 the light field signal generator is like half of a room, it’s this multi-hundred pound gigantic beast,” said the CEO. “So that’s where we are. And all that was doing was the visual signal. “
Abovitz said that Magic Leap then shrunk that down to a nanostructure wafer and then built a factory to make said wafers. “It was a bunch of nearly impossible problems,” he said.
“The first few years of the company were just intense. It was like joining Space X when it was just a hanger and a whiteboard saying ‘We’re going to shoot people into orbit.'”
There will be different tiers of headsets (eventually)
Magic Leap One won’t be the only headset the company makes. The first system is called the Creator Edition and Abovitz acknowledges this is for the early enthusiasts and partners, not the mass market. But he also says there will eventually be multiple headsets existing alongside one another.
“We will have a product line in that price point probably for the company’s history, and we’ll probably have some above and we’ll have some below. So I think we’re trying to establish certain tiers. We’re not going to be a single product company.”
The cheapest headset could cost about the same price as a high-end smartphone
Abovitz described the Magic Leap One as “pro-sumerish” in terms of where it would sit on the ladder. He then said there will be even higher-end version, and then a wider mass-market-priced model too.
“I think Magic Leap, think higher end mobile phone to higher-end tablet zone, is probably our floor.”
But he also sees this replacing your phone
“The number of devices it’s potentially replacing, if you actually add all that up, at some point – we’re not saying for [Magic Leap One] everyone will go down this path – but your phones, your televisions, your laptops, your tablets, that add up to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, all get virtualized”
“The economy of what we’re building actually can replace, not on day one, but over the next, say, gen 2 and gen 3, a whole suite of consumer electronic.”
It’s really, really, really hard to describe – and it’s going to be a marketing challenge
One dilemma the company found was that simply reproducing the Magic Leap experience on a 2D screen wasn’t going to translate the experience very well.
“It’s a little bit tricky because you need to experience it directly. There’s not really a monitor, and this is probably the most interesting thing: think about building a computer where your brain is the monitor and you’re not looking at a monitor. You need to close the loop on the system, and you have to directly experience it.”
It’s coming this year
Abovitz reiterated that the headset will ship this year, in multiple sizes (Shaq was wearing the large) and said Magic Leap will be sharing more information in the Spring.