Magic Leap One

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Magic Leap One is an upcoming mixed reality / augmented reality HMD developed by the tech startup Magic Leap founded by Rony Abovitz in 2011. The soon to be released gadget is described by the company as the ‘creator edition’ of its MR headset. Although Magic Leap has kept the final specifications, features, and the price under wraps, the company has promised to start shipping the goggles and related Software Development Kit (SDK) sometime in 2018.

Promotional Materials / Goals

  • Users are not bound by physical space anymore. Magic Leap One offers a new way to deliver content for entertainment and work.
  • Users are not required to visit different worlds to enjoy gaming. The system brings the characters, story, and action to the real world.
  • Go beyond faceless communication that the current technology offers. Be physically present in the digital environment to meet, greet, and communicate with others.
  • Magic Leap One will help users exercise their creative muscle; experiment with shapes, colors, and textures; draw, create, and play with small and big digital objects.
  • The new mixed reality system will make the whole world your playground. Discover new ways to interact with digital objects, take online shopping to the next level, and do much more.

What We Know So Far

Over the past six years the company has been regularly making headlines and generating a lot of buzz in the tech community. Expectations peaked in 2014 when it was announced that they have received funding from giants such as Alibaba, Google, and others. But, Magic Leap has taken its sweet time to come up with its MR headset prototype.

The announcement of the impending release of the prototype has come just at the right time. The masses were getting bored of the seasonal updates by the company. Until Wednesday, Magic Leap had been sending out only teasers about what they have been working on. So much so, there were speculations on why there is a prolonged delay by the company to present something concert to the masses. There were rumors in some quarters that the company was facing problems in shrinking its technology to a wearable size. To refute rumors, the company invited Rolling Stone and a few other select media houses to try out its mixed reality prototype.

The Three Hardware Components of Magic Leap One

The Magic Leap One mixed reality system comprises of three hardware components.

The Lightwear Headset

The headset is modeled on Steampunk sunglasses and the company has promised to offer the headset in two sizes. The goggles will also have the option of custom temple, nose, and forehead pads. Magic Leap also revealed that it’s working on a design that would enable the inclusion of prescription lenses into the goggles.

The design of the headset is pretty close to what the company has been promising through their regular updates, leaks, and patent news. It may not be quite apparent, but the frames of the goggles look bulky. Anyways, the Magic Leap One goggles look attractively unique and stylish.

To gather spatial data, the headset comes equipped with multiple integrated sensors and at least six external cameras. Like Microsoft HoloLens, the Magic Leap One has built-in speakers and built-in microphones, four of them in the headset. The MR headset is supposed to have a higher field of view than the HoloLens, but it doesn’t.

Magic Leap has used Photonic Wafers, which are translucent cells that generate Lightfield signals. Photonic Wafers does this by moving photons inside a 3D nanostructure. More about the Lightfield technology is mention below.

The Lightpack Computer

The computer that powers the headset comes in the form of a compact disc-shaped hip-pack. The device comes with a clip-on mechanism to attach to the belt or shoulder pad and is tethered to the headset. The Lightpack Computer has a dedicated graphic card and is a lot like an Alienware PC or MacBook Pro.

Interestingly, the Magic Leap Mixed Reality System has another computer situated in the goggle/headset that shares the workload of the Lightpack Computer. The secondary computer, which has limited computing power, is believed to have machine learning capabilities and is tasked to handle detection of the surrounding environment.

The Controller

The third hardware component of the mixed reality system is the handheld controller used to navigate the menus and thoroughly participate in the mixed world created by Magic Leap One. Also, the controller can be tracked in space. The system accepts multiple input modes including eye tracking, head position, gestures, and voice command inputs.

Key Features of Magic Leap One

Digital Lightfield Technolog

The device is based on the theory that to understand the surrounding the visual cortex in our brain doesn’t need all the information-rich light that bounces off the objects around us. Hence, there is no need to re-create the light field in its entirety. Instead, the device only needs to capture select pieces of the light field and supply them to the brain via the eye.

Using this principle, the advanced Digital Lightfield Technology uses photonics to create lights of various depths and combines them with natural light to generate virtual objects. The idea is to narrow the gap between real-world and digital objects. Our brain will be a lot more comfortable processing lifelike virtual objects generated by the device.

Visual Perception

The Magic Leap One is equipped with a powerful sensor suite that detects objects, planes, and surfaces in the surrounding environment and allows their reconstruction. With this technology, the system will see what the user sees of the physical environment. This way, the virtual objects will be capable of more than just establishing their presence along with the real objects. They’ll be able to interact with the surrounding physical world.

Persistent Object

Technologies such as room-mapping and visual perception recreate a digital replica of the real world and store the same. The lightfield/digital objects that the user created and placed in a physical environment will remain there until it is moved or removed by the user. For example: Suppose you mount a virtual TV on a real wall and leave the room. When you return, you’ll find the TV where you placed it.

Soundfield Audio

Immersive audio is as important as the lifelike digital objects. To match the great visuals, Magic Leap has introduced the Soundfield Audio that guarantees amazing audio quality by adding intensity and distance to the sound.

Next Generation Interface

The Magic Leap One goes way beyond the old fashioned click and point interface. The system offers next generation advanced interface that accepts multiple input modes such as eye tracking, head pose, gestures, and voice inputs.

High Powered Chipset

The performance of Magic Leap One will be as good as any high-performing laptop. This is made possible by the powerful, integrated processing unit used in the system. The user of the mixed reality headset will be able to play first-person games from the comfort of his/her room, create high-quality lightfield objects, and 3D models.

Software Development Kit (SDK)

Magic Leap has revealed its plan to also release a Software Development Kit (SDK) in early 2018; they have been promising an SDK launch since 2015. Tech enthusiasts are hoping that the latest announcement about Magic Leap One will speed up the process. Along with the SDK, the company also plans to establish a Creator Portal that would supply the developers with the essential resources, tools, samples, and documentation for application and content creation.

Unanswered Questions

The invitation extended to Rolling Stone and the privilege given to its reporter to try the Magic Leap One System has raised questions from certain tech enthusiasts. Some are asking the reasons for choosing Rolling Stone instead of tech media houses such as CNET or Wired. While many are going gaga over the announcement, some have been very guarded in their response.

Talking at length about the secondary computer in the goggle, Rony Abovitz, the founder of Magic Leap, said that the hardware has a Wi-Fi, drive, and quite a few electronics bundled inside the headset. But, the founder or the company failed to explain how the whole system works, the type of operating system used, speeds of CPU/GPU in the system, and the full hardware specifications. The masses are yet to know whether the internal components can be upgraded in the future. Will the upgrade be expensive? What are the system’s energy requirements and how is it powered? Etc.


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